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Friday, January 11, 2019

Match preview - Hereford FC vs Brackley Town

Hereford FC’s third match of 2019, following last week’s last-gasp drama against league leaders Chorley, gives the Bulls the chance to further extend their unbeaten home run to seven as they host Brackley Town in the second round of the FA Trophy tomorrow, kick off 3pm. 2019 has seen a loss and a draw to date, so to balance things up a win, resulting in a step closer to Wembley, is due.

Last year's Trophy winners Brackley, like Hereford, are something of a southern outlier in National League North, but nevertheless have acquitted themselves well in recent seasons, finishing third last time and this term sitting in tenth position, just three points outside the play-offs and unbeaten in four. The Saints beat lower ranked Hayes and Yeading in the last round, and have scored seven goals in their two Trophy matches.

The Bulls’ form is something of a curate’s egg. That unbeaten run at home looks good on paper, particularly for a club just above the relegation zone, and against Chester and Chorley the talk of turning a corner looked justified, but the three points against Kidderminster was daylight/floodlit robbery. There looked to be something of a gulf between the two sides in both festive derby games, and Kiddy are hardly flying, with their overall recent form causing the sacking of their manager last week. There’s still plenty to prove then, in terms of justifying recent suggestions that the club’s in a false position. To my mind there are almost certainly three worse teams in the division, which I suppose is the main thing, but at this stage I wouldn’t go too much further than that.

However, with Kyle Finn following in the footsteps of Tom Owen Evans in signing an 18-month contract with the club this week, things seem to be moving in the right direction. Both players look capable of playing an important part in keeping the club safe this season, and then pushing on next term. This commitment to the club from the two youngsters can only help to enhance the togetherness of the squad and performances on the pitch. It’s been said several times this season that the Bulls have been beaten by teams who have been playing together for several seasons, when on occasions the Hereford players had barely met each other before taking to the field, and it’s a good sign that Marc Richards and Tim Harris are looking to emulate this longer-term approach with these 18-month contracts. With Matt Yates and Harvey Smith also committing until the end of the season, some semblance of stability is being established.

With Lance Smith seemingly terminally out of favour, there's still a very thin look about the squad up front, particularly if Mike Symons gets injured or suspended, and, given that he invariably spends 90 minutes grappling with two no-nonsense centre halves, either is a distinct possibility. Admittedly it can't be easy to find a striker at this time of year who would be worth bringing in, but nevertheless it's something of a concern.  

Keyon Reffell will presumably start again on the bench (if that's not too confusing a phrase), with perhaps Richards and Wharton forming the central midfield partnership. Barring any injuries the rest pick themselves, seemingly.

Brackley in all honesty looked pretty comfortable in beating the Bulls at home earlier in the season, even before the visitors self-destructed with two red cards, so this will be another opportunity to gauge the progress that’s been made since then. The gap has surely at least narrowed, and with home advantage thrown into the mix progression in the competition looks distinctly possible.