For this ‘Tales’ we head back to the 1994-95 season for the only previous cup tie between St Albans City and Kidderminster Harriers. As with the game played in 2022, that other cup tie was also in the F.A. Trophy, on that occasion it was in the 1st Round.
Today we meet on a level footing with the two clubs in the regional Divisions of the National League, but back in January 1995 we were in our 72nd year as members of the Isthmian League while the Harriers were a step higher in the single Division of the Conference League (today’s National League). Graham Allner’s side were the reigning Conference champions and had a good record in the F.A. Trophy having beaten Burton Albion after a replay in the final in 1987, and finished as runners up to Wycombe Wanderers in 1991. During 16 years with the club, Allner managed the Harriers for a remarkable 911 games.
Our record in the Trophy was somewhat more modest with our best run to the semi-final not coming until 1999. To reach the 1st Round to face Kidderminster this season we saw off fellow Isthmian Legue side Purfleet 4-3 in the 3rd Round Qualifying with Steve Clark scoring twice. One week after that game we entertained Purfleet again, this time in the league, and, to confuse our visitors, manager Allan Cockram started the game with leading scorers Clark and Brian Stein in the heart of the defence. The usual defensive partnership of Dean Murphy and Andy Polston were placed up front. Cockers kept things that way for ten minutes before reverting to normality; City won 2-0.
Kiddy injury problems
Kidderminster headed for Clarence Park on Saturday 21st January 1995 during a spell of wet weather. Following a stop at the Moat House in Harpenden (since converted into housing) they continued onto the Park only for a downpour and flooded pitch to render their journey a wasted one. Kiddy, then sixth in the Conference – we were ninth in the Isthmian League – returned the following Tuesday, 24th January.
Conditions, although damp, were a distinct improvement from the weekend. Our home form to date had been exceptionally good; of 22 games played (including nine cup ties) at the Park Cockram’s side had won 17 and lost just one. Harriers’ form was taking bit of a dip with three games played since the turn of the year having all been lost, indeed, Allner’s side had won just three of their previous 15 games. A ‘giant-killing’ was in the air and that feeling was exacerbated when it was discovered that they were without several regulars due to injury. Six of the squad had undergone operations in the preceding month. City were without the injured duo of Shaun Brett and Peter Risley .
The game was slow to find any rhythm but Harriers were ahead at half time courtesy of Jon Purdie’s headed goal on 39 minutes. Purdie was already a less than welcome visitor to these parts having come off the bench in November 1992 to score Cheltenham Town’s winner against us in the F.A. Cup 1st Round. However, six minutes into the second half Martin Gurney turned home a loose ball after a Martin Duffield shot had deflected kindly to him. Purdie, though, was in no mood to lose his winning record at the Park and, within a minute, had restored Harriers lead with a wonderful effort past the diving Gareth Howells .
Late goals but out go City
Allan Cockram brought himself on for the final 20 minutes at the expense of Polish midfielder Detzi Kruszyński but, just when we started to apply pressure on Darren Steadman’s goal, Paul Webb struck for a third Harriers goal. That late strike, 86 minutes, should have allowed Kidderminster to see the game out in comfort, but, now it was time for City to hit back quickly and a minute later Steve Clark latched on Cockers’ through ball to score his 39th goal of the season and 24th in cup ties (left). City almost secured a noteworthy draw in the third minute of added time when a Barry Blackman header thumped into the woodwork.
With the game being switched from Saturday to Tuesday, and the continued poor weather, the attendance was a disappointing 721. City not only suffered a knock at the turnstiles but also in the press as criticism was made of the decision to increase the cost of adult admission by 50p to £5.
Following their success at the Park, Kidderminster’s league form remained inconsistent and with 16 wins and 17 defeats they came to rest in 11th place in the 22-club Conference. Not for the first time though, they enjoyed a lengthy run in the F.A. Trophy with Kingstonian (after a replay), Ilkeston Town (replay), Altrincham and Hyde United being seen off to secure a place in the final alongside Woking. A crowd of 17,815 at Wembley witnessed a disappointing encounter that saw Woking lift the pot with a goal three minutes from the end of extra time. Earlier in the game, Paul Davies had scored for the fourth successive round to take the game into extra time. Woking’s assistant manager at this time – under manager Geoff Chapple – was Colin Lippiatt who, eleven years later, guided us into the Conference National. With 18 goals, Paul Davies was the leading goalscorer for the Aggborough Stadium club, while Delwyn Humphreys was second highest on 13.
73 Games, 323 Goals
With Allan Cockram as manager our season was never likely to be dull. From the 42 Isthmian League games played a total 177 goals were scored (96 for, 81 against), which is by far the highest total in a single league campaign. The figures become mind blowing when the cup goals are added in. Thirty-one cup matches saw a further 100 goals added to our tally with another 46 conceded. In total, the 73 games played by the club during 1994-95 produced a staggering 323 goals. Six players got into double figures with Player of The Year Steve Clark topping the chart on 56 (from 65 appearances); he was followed by Brian Stein 32, Barry Blackman 17, Andy Driscoll 17, Martin Duffield 16 and Martin Gurney 12.
We finished the season in seventh place with champions Enfield some 29 points away in the distance. It was Enfield who ended our interest in the F.A. Cup with a replay victory at Southbury Road, 4-2, in the final qualifying round. In the next two rounds the E’s removed Football League sides Cardiff City and Torquay United before bowing out away to Leicester City.
The F.A. Cup was one of eight cup competitions that we entered. The Herts Charity Cup was placed in the Clarence Park trophy cabinet after goals from Martin Gurney and Dereck Brown saw off Boreham Wood 2-1 in the final at the Park. Our bid to make it a county double floundered in the final of the Herts Senior Cup where Watford ran out 4-0 winners – future Saint Wayne Andrews scored the final goal.
History was made on 15th May when we lifted the London Challenge Cup for the one and only time with a 6-0 drubbing of Fisher 93 at The Valley. Blackman and Gurney got on the scoresheet but it was four goals by Clark that grabbed the headlines as he took his tally for the season to 56, and in so doing edged past Charlie Bunce’s long-held record of 55 by an individual in one season.
St Albans City: Gareth Howells , Andy Polston, Erskine Smart, Dean Murphy, Kevin Mudd, Detzi Kruszyński ( Allan Cockram 70), Martin Duffield, Martin Gurney (Andy Driscoll 80), Steve Clark , Barry Blackman, Brian Stein, sub, Richard Watkiss.
Kidderminster Harriers: Darren Steadman, Simeon Hodson, Paul Bancroft, Paul Webb, Mark Yates, Richard Forsyth, John Deakin, Neil Cartwright, Jon Purdie (Mark Dearlove 80), Paul Davies, Lee Hughes, sub, Jay Powell, Kevin Rose.
Referee: Paul Armstrong. Attendance: 721.