Sunday, October 03, 2021

Welsh Wizards Win It In The Wet

Son of Eric braved the elements to watch Hereford win at Merstham.

Leaving the shire many a road had tractors speeding with trailers bringing the harvest home. The Bulls went to Surrey hoping to reap several thousand pounds and a place in the  Fourth Qualifying round. There was no queue at Merstham's ground but some spectators may have been in the hour long queue snarling up the High Street in search of  fuel.

From a balmy end of summer last Saturday, this Saturday saw Autumn rushing towards winter with dark skies, pouring rain and a strong wind. Difficult conditions but with the Bulls unbeaten away from home all season and an impressive win at York Hereford fans were optimistic. 

Merstham was a very welcoming and well organised club with an abundance of  friendly volunteers. Liburd-Hines debuted in goal for  the  injured Hall. Captain Hodgkiss had the first impressive cross shot on goal tipped around for a corner. Hancox came in at left back for the  injured  Fini. Pollock dropped back to centre back to cover cup tied McNally, pairing with Andoh. The midfield seemed to be a  diamond with Kouyhar at the base, Lloyd on the left, Pinchard on the right and Owen-Evans in the hole behind Smith and  Hulbert coming into the  team. Hereford switched to red shorts to avoid a clash of colours.

Hereford made a  quick and lively start determined to  dominate. At times they were  overwhelming Merstham with quick thoughts and passes. The team were elegant, fluid and dynamic.  At times it was like watching a non-league Manchester City. Hereford had two up front, three up front, sometimes four up front and players comfortable changing position plus the confidence to  try things.

You had to  feel for the  Merstham manager who kept shouting to his players to watch the midfield runners. An obedient team Merstham kept watching, but were unable to stem the  force of football from the Whites. 

The Merstham manager assessed the situation and after twenty minutes was calling out to keeper Bull to take his time. A goalless draw was the height of ambition for a team struggling for confidence at the bottom of  their division. 

Only one man stood firm in the deluge and stopped inevitable goals. Reuben Collins had a variable first touch and limited passing. But for putting his body on the line he was Premier league in class. He had a telepathic ability to anticipate shots from Andoh, Owen-Evans, Smith, Hulbert (who was especially unlucky), Kouyhar and more. Throwing his body every which way it was as if he was on a mission to  block a shot from every single Hereford player.

Reuben the rock was making more saves than keeper Bull who did not look confident with corners. From the first corner where Collins blocked Hulbert he was relentless. Hereford were also a little profligate with Andoh, Lloyd and Maziar all shooting high. Hulbert was especially prominent lithe and rangy getting the ball quickly under control looking the most likely to score but for the desperate defending. 

Merstham were struggling to get forward and Hereford were pressing all over the field. Finally Merstham forced a corner which came to  nothing. Hereford drove up field and Pinchard drifted in from the right with nothing obviously on.

Centrally placed on the edge of the box Owen-Evans peeled off to the  right of the box. Pinchard turned ninety degrees and clipped a dinked ball. Owen-Evans pirouetting like a ballet dancer jumped killing the ball dead on the full, turning as he did and whipped a low shot on the half volley just inside the near post. Yet more exquisite class from the Welshman.Barry Davies would have asked where the Merstham defence was but the Bulls fans didn't care.

Merstham responded well and forced a corner which Richmon flicked just wide of the post. Hodgkiss angrily remonstrated with the defence for the lack of organisation at set pieces which remains a  vulnerability. The Bulls players  walked off to  applause from the Hereford fans who made up about half of the 367 present. The incessant rain left their shirts clinging to  well toned physiques. You know you have a good set of players when they can do it in a monsoon at Merstham. 

Merstham came out determined and were immediately on the  attack, Adjei-Hersey crossing to Anderson who headed wide when it seemed easier to score. Returning to the attack Pinchard picked up the ball on the right wing. Drifting inside no Merstham player came to challenge him, he let the ball run on, opened his body and as he approached the box hit a left footed pearler of a curler into the  far top corner. Bull stood no chance, goal of the season so far.  Even stunned Merstham fans applauded this moment of sheer quality. 

Pinchard and Owen-Evans combined especially well in the match. In the first half they feinted prior to a free kick, confusing some defenders. At one corner Pinchard waited for TOE to pull away and then drilled a low corner which Tom fired in on goal. Just after scoring Pinchard fed Tom whose effort was blocked.  It's easy to see why both players were picked up by big clubs as youngsters. If you enjoyed watching those other Welsh wizards Paul Parry and Gavin Williams you should get down to Edgar Street and see these twinkling stars.

Two goals in command the game was won and as at Lymington Hereford failed to kill off the game. The difference between expected goals and actual goals must be large. It remains a concern that the team  can't turn play into goals. Merstham only threatened from set pieces with one corner resulting in a goalmouth scramble.

McLean came on for Smith who had worked hard across the line helped by referee Hughes who told the Merstham defenders the consequences of being too physical. It was refreshing to see a referee talking and explaining decisions as the game was played. McLean played on the right and it allowed Hulbert to be played as the central striker. McLean had one good run but shanked his shot wide, another shot was blocked. He created several opportunities and looked more comfortable playing on the right.

Merstham brought on Greenwood for Anderson, and Folkes for Sam-Yorke as they tried to get back into the game. Finally they played their last substitution bringing on Monga for Gharbaoui who had threatened at times on the  flanks. Monga showed there is still a place for players with the body of Neil Ruddock in the  modern game showing an impressive turn of speed for a big man.

Hereford  brought on Forsyth for Lloyd who yet again had a good game. Merstham's best chance appeared to lie with an abandonment which happened just down the road in the second half at Aldershot with Wrexham 2 0 up.  Andoh appeared to be unfamiliar with the conditions overplaying and twice almost getting caught out when a hoick  away was what conditions demanded. He got a Pollock rollicking to let him know not to do it again.

The pitch had been impressively prepared but the relentless deluge was saturating the field and the ball was sticking at times, mostly near the centre circle. You could see why the ground is called Moatside with parts of the hard standing submerged. It would have been hard to argue if the game had been abandoned and it says much for the character and ethos of Merstham football club that they made no attempts to  appeal for this.

Having come on Monga appeared to quickly run out of stamina arriving late twice for tackles leaving the referee with no option but to bring out his first yellow card. 

A comfortable win and an outstanding first half. Liburd-Hines had a very easy debut. Mazhour prompted much of the best play and getting his first ninety minutes in was a bonus. Owen-Evans performance faded in the second half overhitting several crosses but his goal was glorious and he terrorised the Merstham back line early on.

Man of the match Pinchard reminded me of David Silva with the way he floated through the game and made the two decisive contributions. Not El Magico but perhaps Y Dewin! When he left the pitch for Whittingham and walked around to  the changing room he was applauded by every Bulls fan. 

Worse than the soaking in Woking the Merstham monsoon had a magnificent pair of goals to make up for the drenching.