Saturday, August 17, 2019

Symons Scores But Flash Ash Catches The Eye

Mike Symons Scored The Only Goal Of The Game
 Son of Eric watched this afternoon's game between Blyth Spartans and Hereford FC.

It was a gloriously sunny but very windy day in the North East. The bus ride from Newcastle takes you past Whitley Bay’s ground and past the superbly scenic Seaton Sluice ground where anything high and handsome will end up in the North Sea. Blyth’s ground was looking good, but the team was a shadow of last year’s when the paly offs were reached. Half the side had left with the manager for Darlington, others had gone to Whitley Bay and Morpeth leaving a lot of youngsters and a rather small team. Hereford were a noticeably bigger side. Blyth fans were clear that avoiding relegation was all that they wanted and explained many players were youngsters thrown in, and that they had been well beaten by York who could have scored more.

The hundred or so Hereford fans had many unfamiliar faces. Local match sponsor Patricia Fitzgerald was originally from Foxley, near Weobley. Another couple of Scottish Bulls had travelled almost 200 miles from Balirgowrie in the Highlands for their “nearest” game.

Hereford made one change with Thomas having a slight knock and Hanley coming in at left back. The Liburd, Ash, Symons, troika continued up front. Blyth started the brighter and had the swirling wind behind them which made for some stop start passages of play. Owen-Evans was booked early on for pulling back Spooner running through the middle. Most of Blyth’s best play came through Wrightson who switched from wing to wing and troubled both Hereford full backs. A succession of crosses flew in but without other Blyth players getting on the end. His ability stood out from some distinctly mediocre performances by Blyth’s other players.

Liburd challenged well for a corner from Maye and a Blyth defender just got the ball over the bar. From the next corner the ball broke to Liburd whose shot was deflected wide. Liburd was working back well on the left supporting Hanley and winning useful possession. Hereford started to get into the game which became more end to end. Blyth threw in crosses but Gowling and Cullinane-Liburd looked assured against a weak attack.

Symons playing the most centrally of the strikers headed over and then Tom hit a sweet shot but a little too centrally and keeper Harker on loan from Newcastle under 23s tipped over. Hodgkiss surged down the right and threaded a long pass into the channel for Liburd who swept the ball into his pass and headed for the box pulling Blyth’s defenders and keeper towards him. Looking up Rowan rolled the ball to the far post for a tap in by Symons. Fast attacking football and a fine goal.

Bottom of the table Blyth faded progressively towards half time and Hereford had more and more of the play. Maye fired in and Harker saved. At the other end Hereford started to double up at the earliest opportunity on the dangerous Wrightson and the rest of Blyth’s offence offered little.

At times Wrightson seemed selfish but on one occasion he got towards the corner flag and laid back a simple ball to right back Evans for a simple crossing opportunity only to see the ball sliced backwards. A great Wrightson cross was nodded just wide by Spooner at the far post, and this was the closest Blyth were to come to scoring. As Hereford got on top Blyth started to get niggly with Owen-Evans being repeatedly fouled. The referee though booked Jagger Cane when Blyth fouls were at least as bad. 

Owen Evans Is Brought Down And The Referee Gives A Free Kick

At half time Hereford were comfortably on top and with the swirling wind mostly behind them looked well placed to go and improve their goal difference.

Blyth came out and for a short while got back into the game but faded and Hereford looked the fitter side. Ash looked increasingly dangerous firing in a shot which was deflected wide. Finally, a Blyth player is booked with Mason getting yellow for a foul. Liburd put in a shot which the keeper did well to deal with and Hereford took control but were unable to turn their dominance into a goal. As Blyth tired Ash with his pace, control and hanging on the line increasingly proved a threat.

Ash Tries His Luck
Ash Again - This Shot Was Deflected For A Corner
One criticism some fans have made of recently departed manager Marc Richards was his penchant for defensive substitutions. Hereford’s 4-3-3 was making plenty of chances, but Football Director/Acting Manger Harris did a double substitution with Symons who was carrying a strain being replaced by Styche who was carrying a different kind of strain. Liburd who looked to have plenty of running in him was replaced by Nicholson with Hereford moving to a 4-4-2. Plus ca change.

The only time Hall was in any difficulty was when Mullen hit a high looping effort towards the top corner. The ball always looked to be going just wide, but the ball wobbled in the wind and Hall wisely tapped it out for a corner just in case. Blyth brought on Callaghan for Scott who had struggled at left back. A corner came out to Jagger Cane who volleyed just over.

Blyth double made two substitutions, Spooner who often found good positions but failed to deliver for Mouanda who came and kicked players as much as the ball; and Butler for right back Evans who was getting overrun with Hereford’s fast movement. The few times Blyth threatened dangerman Wrightson was always at the heart of things. Ash was looking unplayable along the back line and fed Nicholson for a shot. Ash then fired just past the post. Styche showed his professionalism with some clever movement and a couple of snap shots. 

Substitute Reece Styche With A Shot That The Keeper Fails To Gather Cleanly - However Jared Hodgkiss Couldn't Turn Into The Goal

The best effort came from Owen-Evans which was well saved by Harker. Owen-Evans was taken off just before the end with Pope coming on. Mouanda kept catching people late and was eventually booked for nasty late challenge on Ash.

One nil to the Hereford and that’s good, but it is not good enough. Just as many people were unhappy at Gloucester with a 2-0 win this should have been more comfortable. Blyth’s budget problems meant this side was much poorer than last seasons. Only keeper Harker and jack in the box Wrightson would find a place in Hereford’s squad. Against many other sides the inability to kill the game off would be punished with the loss of two or three points.

This was not a bad performance but being bigger, stronger, fitter and better should have resulted in a clearer result. Hall had little to do. Both full backs Hodgkiss and Hanley were good going forward but were troubled and beaten by the elusive Wrightson. Gowling and Cullinane-Liburd will have few easier afternoons. At times the injured Riley standing close to Harris and gesticulating with coaching tips was more engaged.

Maye, Jagger-Cane and Owen-Evans all had nice flashes. Maye’s dead balls were as good as Owen-Evans, it is nice to now have two quality strikers of a corner or free kick. Symons and Liburd worked hard but Liburd needs to convert a higher percentage of the shots he fires off, hopefully it will come. Just like against Telford it was Ash (Flash Ash?) who caught the eye. Quick, good control, a fearsome strike on him, man of the match again.

Brackley and Chester next up will be two much tougher challenges, one nil victories against both would be most welcome.

Spartans XI: Harker; Devitt, Robson, Mason; Scott 7 (Callaghan 66), Mullen, Spooner (Mouanda 70), Orrell, Evans (Butler 70), Wrightson, Fenwick.

Subs not used: Hutchinson, Horner

Hereford XI: Hall; Hanley, Gowling, Cullinane-Liburd, Hodgkiss. Maye, Jagger-Cane, Owen-Evans (Pope 90); Liburd  (Nicholson 76), Symons (Styche 76), Ash

Subs not used: Bray, O’Sullivan.

Attendance 756 with around 100 supporting Hereford