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Sunday, April 15, 2018

Return Of The Mac Keeps Hereford On Track

Eric reports from Bishop's Stortford.

Yesterday evening I put in my first chitted potatoes of the season and it seemed as if the Bishops Stortford pitch was ripe for planting on too. Arriving at the game it was reported the referee had wanted to call the game off. Thankfully both sides were keen for the game to go ahead. The referee had a point as this was an awful bobbly pitch. One end was a muddy mess and when the ball fell in this area in the six-yard box, the ball barely bounced. At half time the groundsman came on was doing his best to create a fine tilth. 

At the other end there was a Bermuda triangle on the right side of the box near the goal line where both Oates and Reffell lost control of the ball to the pitch on more than one occasion.

Hereford started in a bright and lively fashion on the sunniest day of the season so far. Keyon got down the right to put the first of many lovely crosses. Bishops Stortford counter attacked but Pring comfortably cleared it. 42-year-old Jamie Cureton was a lively threat throughout and a slip by Oates allowed him in, but O’Shea quickly saw the danger and cleared it. A long ball was mis-headed by Pring but Puddy dealt with the danger at the near post. Pring got forward regularly and a deep cross was headed over by Symons after 7 minutes. Reffell and Oates combined well throughout the game making many dangerous combinations.

A quick Pablo throw found a surging Symons whose shirt was pulled back for a dangerous free kick on the left. Purdie put the first of many quality balls in and although O’Shea got on the end of it, the resolute Bishops Stortford defence cleared from the melee. Good working back and an astute tackle on Cureton by Haysham lead to a Bishop Stortford corner after 14 minutes which was easily cleared.

Hereford were struggling to find their range on the damp, muddy, bobbling pitch and were overhitting a few forward balls. Running with the ball in places lead to unexpected movement, which both sides did their best to manage. Reffell managed a silky run beating two defenders and getting tackled just as he was set to shoot for a corner. The outstanding tall Stortford keeper Kitscha came and claimed it and then an Oates cross. Myrie-Williams was showing the least of Hereford’s forward players, but he got through and was pulled back after 17 minutes. The consistent and good referee warned the defender. Purdie’s subsequent free kick went just past the post.

Another move by Keyon lead to a good cross but when it “bounced” in the mud it barely came up. The six-yard box at the Town end was a lottery. Captain Marvel Ekpiteta was bamboozled by the Beast and his only superpower left was to pull back Symons shirt, which resulted in a booking for the Stortford skipper after 18 minutes. Westcott pushed O’Shea resulting in a free kick which lead to a cross from Oates. Keeper Kitscha made a rare error dropping the ball in the quagmire but managed to recover. Reffell won another corner which came to nothing.

The Stortford midfield were hard working and determined. Several young players once again raising their game against the almost champions. Richards was meeting the physical challenge full on and was warned by the referee for repeated fouling. Stortford’s Foxley got down the left and put in a great cross which Hereford’s defence cleared well. A great run on the left and a lovely precise ball through the backline by Pring played in Myrie-Williams in the box. Casey pushed him for a clear penalty. On this pitch there was no question of trying a shot along the ground and Symons hard effort to the right was at the classic comfortable height for Kitscha to show his class again. 

Myrie-Williams went in late on Brassington and was warned by the referee for his late tackle. After 30 minutes yet another excellent Purdie corner was well dealt with by the well organised Stortford defence. It seemed as if their back four had a private competition to see who could swap shirts with Symons. This time it was Robinson who tried to pull him back but there’s a whole lot of momentum when Mike gets going and the referee played advantage which did not come to anything. Intricate combination passing by Richards and Oates lead to the next great Hereford cross from Richards. It was met by Haysham with a looping header which bounced back off the bar after 35 minutes.

Pring won another corner for Purdie and again it was cleared yet again. Captain Marvel is supposed to have a precognitive “seventh sense” but this was tested beyond endurance by a precise Richards through ball for the rampaging Symons, and Ekpiteta failed to read it again. Clutching at Mike’s shirt as he headed for goal there was no doubt this was going to be a second booking and sending off after 40 minutes The skipper’s armband was passed to fellow centre back Robinson.

Goalless at half time Hereford had been well on top but Stortford were resolute.

After 49 minutes Jennison laid a ball just where Pablo wanted it and Kitscha had to go full length to save low at the near post. Oates put in his best cross yet from the right and Symons met it beautifully looping it back with power back towards goal. That man Kitscha again made an outstanding save.

With little danger near the corner and forgetting his previous warning an unnecessary foul by Myrie-Williams resulted in him being booked. The referee broke off from the game to go and warn a Stortford substitute it seemed for something he said. Liburd played a lovely ball forward to Oates and as he surged forward he was taken out by Clifford. The assistant referee was so eager to signal a foul that he threw his flag into the air like a majorette but failed to catch it as it came down. Purdie’s free kick was met by Symons who headed it back into the danger area, only for Stortford to clear again.

Stortford were now playing two banks of four with Cureton goal hanging by the half way line. The well organised Stortford team dropped into a line of 8 at times as they resolutely defended their 18-yard box line. So impressive was their physical effort that at times you could forget they were down to ten men. The Stortford crowd got behind their team and Hereford’s fans started wondering if they might see the rarest type of a Hereford performance – a goalless draw.

Pring crossed for Symons to head over. Pring then ran sharply into the box only to be desperately tackled as well placed to shoot. Myrie-Williams was not having the same impact as Hereford’s other forward players and having been booked was substituted for Mills after 64 minutes.

A long ball through was expertly read and finished by Cureton who was thankfully offside. Hereford were a little frustrated with the pitch shown when Richards scuffed a poor shot wide. Stortford started to waste time, but the referee noticed this and started warning them. Kitscha especially was doing all he could to slow the game down. A good break by Mason was astutely shepherded and defended by Liburd. Symons was now playing more on the left with Mills in the middle. As he ran through Brassington put in his entry for the Stortford competition to pull the shirt off Mike’s back.

Yet another Purdie free kick was well bravely taken by the keeper at the far post under great pressure from O’Shea who fell awkwardly and went down for treatment. Tough Dara got back up but was clearly in some discomfort. Hereford’s midfield had not fully won the battle to impose themselves thwarted by the pitch and the athleticism of the Bishops. Richards was taken off after 73 minutes and McGrath came back to a big cheer after his lengthy injury.

Symons fed Mills in the box and chop, chop, shot Kitscha saved at the near post. Purdie was pushing forward more with McGrath on and Thomas took him out late and was booked. Purdie’s subsequent free kick was nodded just wide by Oates. Another Oates cross was headed by Symons and Kitscha claimed again as the Bulls ramped up the pressure.

Stortford were offering little other than long balls towards the ever-alert Cureton and one of these found him heading towards the box. O’Shea came in with an excellent block. In doing so he worsened his earlier injury and had to go off, Deaman coming on after 78 minutes. With constant pressure now, a Purdie cross was headed towards the corner for Kitscha to save at the expense of a corner.

McGrath was relishing the physical battle and caught Thomas with his thigh late which was rightly called for a foul. Thomas cynically tried to make out the challenge was far worse, but he was not that bright as the Assistant referee was right by the incident. Stand in captain Robinson came in to argue for his man and to waste some more time. The referee understood exactly the desperate tricks of the tired defenders and booked Robinson. He had advised the captain on previous occasions that he was noting all the naughty delays, and this was excellent refereeing.

A great surging run by Pablo received a heavy challenge from Westcott. In a great position on the left Mills shot at goal but did not find his range. His shot still going up over the away end just like one of the planes taking off in the distance every 5 minutes from Stansted Airport. Brassington then cleaned out Mills and was rightly booked as the Stortford rear-guard tried to hold out. Purdie’s free kick was cleared, and Mills fed Symons who charging through had the ball taken off his toe by Kitscha.

How you would want this Hereford team in the trenches with you. This season on their longest journeys they have come up with the goods time and time again in the dying moments. There’s something about being near the M25 which inspires them. Slough 2 late goals. Kings Langley 3 late goals. Chesham 2 late goals. Try, try and try again, even when some of those spoilt in the crowd over the last few years have begun to doubt you. Four minutes of additional time was announced.

Purdie had put in a score or more of quality flighted balls into the box. Once more into the breach went a ball from the left-hand side. Wary of the impressive Kitscha he fired it to the near post. McGrath must have had some impressive repairs. Reconditioned fully he ran and spring heeled leapt above everybody to power the header home. Ecstasy. Purdie has been practising jumping onto fire station poles and piled in flying to join the melee but thinking he could fly momentarily misjudged and went past into a heap. Have a look at the video it is funny.

Now the expectant fans were in dreamland. Their Slough of despond relieved even more by the Rebels late equaliser against Kings Lynn as the Bulls comfortably saw out time.

The outstanding player was Kitscha who almost single-handedly had kept Bishops Stortford in the hunt for a point. The referee had a very good game. For the Bulls Reffell, Oates, Pring and Liburd all had noteworthy games and what a way for McGrath to return. The man of the match though was Symons. Yet again bullying and battering a defence getting free kicks a plenty, players booked, and their captain sent off. All the hard-working ugly things that build a victory.

101 goals, 100 points what a team!

Three points, we only need three points….see you at Biggleswade!