Sunday, April 27, 2008

Onwards and Upwards Part Two

It's probably fair to say that few, if any, Hereford United supporters would have thought that their club might have been celebrating automatic promotion by 5pm yesterday. The odds on both the Bulls winning and the Hatters losing seemed pretty unlikely as supporters set off for Griffin Park.

Some of those travelling from Hereford and the surrounding area must have wondered whether it was going to be one of those days when reports on Five Live revealed a lorry had overturned on the M4 and there were delays. Phone calls and a quick look at the map suggested a detour along the A4 might be a good idea.

However the traffic on the A338 to get to the A4 was very slow and nobody realised the A4 went through several small towns with as many traffic lights as in the whole of Herefordshire. It took over an hour to get back on the M4 at junction 12.

It wasn't too long before the floodlights of Griffin Park came into view just a few hundred yards away to the right. Shouldn't be too long now.

Nobody had factored in the Chiswick roundabout. We just made it in time. A few were late.

Although the away end looked uninspiring from the outside, once inside the view from the upper tire was excellent. The stand had been built close to the pitch and is one of the better away ends, at least upstairs, in League Two. It did help that it nearly full of Hereford United fans many who had found yellow shirts from various seasons to wear. And there were yellow baloons.

Straight from the kick-off the supporters became the twelveth man. Wayne Brown was in the goal below us and could be seen smiling at several of the chants from the 1400 or so behind him.

But many supporters only had one eye on the game, the other looking at their phone waiting for news from Barnet where rivals for automatic promotion Stockport were playing.

The biggest cheer so far came in the 18th minute when Hooper scored and then another massive cheer on 36 minutes when Robinson made it 2-0. And that was the score at half-time.

It was still 0-0 at Barnet then on 47 minutes Puncheon put the Barnet Bees ahead. It didn't take long for news to travel across the capital. A hugh cheer from the away end. Lots of fans checking their phones to ensure the information was correct.

Then a few minutes later another cheer until it was realised that the Hatters had equalised through Rowe. It least it wasn't former Bull Micheal Rose who was subbed at half-time. 2-0 to Hereford and Stockport drawing 1-1.

We had to wait another 30 minutes for more goal action. Akurang had put the Barnet Bees ahead. Is this right? Let's hope this isn't a wind up. It wasn't. The realisation that the Bulls could be promoted by 4.50pm was beginning to sink in.

And the there was the icing on the cake to come with a goal from Simon Johnson on 90 minutes. An emphatic victory for the Bulls. Now what's happened at Underhill?

It seemed an age for the Stockport result to come through. It was probably no more than a minute or so after referee Scott Mathieson had blown for full time at Griffin Park.

We've done it. Stockport have lost. Hereford go up automatically. No play-offs for the Bulls. Three weeks extra holiday for Wayne Brown - just what he had asked for several weeks ago.

Fans on the pitch but the stewards and police, even a few on horseback, were well prepared. They formed a line and all the celebrations were good natured. Players not involved with the game came on and joined their team-mates as did Graham Turner and the rest of his staff.

After a while back to the dressing rooms and then out for an encore. And perhaps something many would never have dreamed might happen.

As manager Graham Turner was in the middle of a group of players and fans, two other players, Kris Taylor and Trevor Benjamin, emerged with a container of water and tipped it over GT's head giving the Hereford United manager a real soaking. He took it well.

Whilst all this was going on, the press both local and national were interviewing whoever they could and there were cameras everywhere. Jubilation.

Slowly all involved with Hereford United returning to the dressing rooms and the supporters began to leave the stadium. But to which pub?

There is a pub at each corner of Griffin Park and soon there were Hereford fans in each of them. Some said their aim was to celebrate in all four. A few probably did.

Brentford supporters wished us well next season. A friendly bunch.

The journey back to God's Country was straight forward compared with the outward journey.

Alan Green was on 6-0-6. Several Hereford voices came over the airwaves. One in particular asked when Green might come to Edgar Street and commentate on a Hereford game.

And one of our party was interviewed by Steve Claridge for Setanta TV. Claridge was reminded how Graham Turner had taken Hereford to League One on next to nothing. Just one transfer - that of Ben Smith from Weymouth for £20,000. Hadn't Claridge been manager there?

On reflection it doesn't get much better. It's not long since the Bulls were playing at, for example, Leigh RMI, Margate and Farnborough. Next season there's places like Northampton, Crewe, Leyton Orient and Yeovil.

Onwards and Upwards part two has been completed. Can we hope for part three?