Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Another Penalty Miss Hurts Hereford

Debut For Stephen Dawson
Mark Nottingham reports from the Pure Stadium.

The rearranged game at Southport had a poor attendance of 604 with no certainty of the game being on until Altrincham beat Southport in the cup on Saturday. Southport fans characterised this as a blip with steady progression this season. Reduced funds meant they had gone from full time to part time, and the consensus was that manager Liam Watson was doing a good job in the reduced circumstances. Southport fans were very proud of the quality of their pitch and it did look exquisitely manicured. As part of the agreement for Everton Women to play at the ground Everton’s ground staff had assisted. Ben Bowen will have strong competition in the best pitch competition this season.

Hereford lined up 4-1-4-1 with Styche up front and at times Ash augmenting him coming in mostly from the right. Dawson and Pollock both made their first starts with Dawson at the front of a midfield diamond and Pollock the pivot as I believe it is now called. Hereford started poorly and were immediately troubled by the long throws of Ogle. A shorter throw from Ogle was fed inside but cleared by Bodenham, Wood blocked this and then controlled it sending a pass along the edge of the box between Gowling and Bodenham for Ogle to get to the by-line, and square a simple ball which went across the six yard box for Mohammed to tap in, it seemed all too easy.

Another Ogle long throw won a corner which was swung to the back post and was headed down by Astle for Hall to make a routine save. The impressive centre back Astle is no doubt available for sponsorship by any company wishing to build brick outhouses.

Hereford had started poorly and did not look as lively as Southport, despite having had a longer lay-off. Dawson notably seemed to be seeing the game pass him by. Like some sleeping giant it was as if he was getting rid of his rustiness and getting his touch back, as he went on to have an excellent game. Every long throw was causing consternation in the box for Hereford, with Gowling twisting awkwardly to glance one away at the expense of a corner.

Hereford won a corner and Ash swung in a gorgeous ball which Cullinane-Liburd glanced with a free header. It went just wide of the far post with a deflection, the look on his face showed that he knew he could have scored. The next Ash corner was poor and easily cleared.

Hereford were making little impact but Styche dummied Mohammed to cleverly win a free kick just outside the box on the left. Ash hit it sweetly and Albinson struggled to get across and parried it out leaving an empty net. Vincenti rushed forward with a Southport defender challenging and the ball bouncing slightly awkwardly. Vincenti connecting almost too well and scooping it well over the bar like a penalty against Tamworth.

An announcement over the tannoy warned Southport fans who were throwing objects on to the pitch and delayed the game. To Southport’s credit the offenders were promptly identified and ejected.

Dawson had gradually been getting into the pace of the game and picked up a ball just over the halfway line from Vincenti, he surged forward and let fly a speculative low shot from thirty yards. Keeper Albinson went down in stages and a little to the surprise of the 38 souls on the away terrace the ball nestled in the net. 

Bulls fans rejoiced and the referee initially gave the goal but the linesman on the left flagged and apparently explained that Vincenti had used his arm to control the ball. The assistant referee appeared to be the only one in the ground who had seen this, and the goal was ruled out. Slade was apoplectic and went on the pitch protesting and was booked.

Hereford were energised and surged forward into the left of Southport’s box and as Mohammed desperately tried to get at the ball, he fouled Styche for a penalty. This was clever play from Styche, he was being forced out of the box and although there was contact it was not massive. Southport fans will have been disappointed and those who saw Styche win a penalty at Gloucester will have again admired a master tradesman demonstrating his craft. Styche took the penalty which in line with current Hereford standards was poor, not that hard and only just to the left of the keeper who seemed to have his weight on his other foot, and gambling on going the other way Hereford equalised.

The game barely re-started, and Ogle went down awkwardly and seemed to be in agony. The referee blew for half time and after five minutes the crowd applauded Ogle off on a stretcher. His long throws had been devastating and this was a big loss to Southport who brought on Parry and moved Mohammed to right back. Hereford had been targeting Mohammed as the weaker of the centre back pairing. Going forward Mohammed was a more threatening proposition and he only just headed a Bauress corner over the bar.

Three fans in the stand behind the Hereford dugout shouted out to Slade to “sort it out”. Russell turned to them and said I am not out there I can’t head it. The fans chuntered back something incoherent and Slade turned again and told them to shut up, and the three wise monkeys seeing the commitment in his eyes refrained from giving any more “advice” for the rest of the game. Slade was talking easily to fans at length before the Hinton game, joking he had sent a picture to a friend to show where his career had now taken him, and it is good to know we have a manager who wants to interact with fans, even if some of them may not be able to give as good as they get.

Pollock fed Dawson who seeing the goal within range let fly just past the post. Thomas played a lovely ball to Ash on the right releasing him in loads of space, but Ash’s cross under no pressure was poor and taken easily by Albinson. Hereford remained vulnerable to crosses, Sampson heading just wide from a corner. The game was becoming stretched and a little niggly with the referee inconsistent. Woods won a free kick which Hall punched out. The ball was looped back in and Hall went down under challenge as the ball was put into an empty net, the referee giving the foul to Hereford’s relief.

Styche was having a tussle throughout with Astle and when he caught him Astle belly flopped theatrically to get Styche booked when other similar challenges had gone unpunished. Dawson blocked a loose ball and it broke to him and he ran forward, the defender Mohammed missed his challenge to Dawson’s surprise, and he found himself one on one with Albinson coming out. Dawson gave a heavy touch to take the ball to the left of the keeper and it was heading out of Dawson’s reach, but thankfully the keeper caught Dawson who went down for a penalty. The run was not a thing of beauty, more agricultural, Dawson had stumbled, then rumbled and finally tumbled as any self-respecting experienced professional would.

Styche hit his penalty hard and this time to the keeper’s right but a yard inside the post and at the classically good height for a keeper, and Albinson made a good save. 

This was the turning point of the game. Southport raided down the right again and Woods beat Bodenham, getting to the by-line the ball was sharply pulled back to captain Morgan. In an exquisite piece of skill, he let the ball run through his legs to hit the back of his heel with the controlling touch freeing him into the box, wrong footing defenders and from fifteen yards he sweetly curled his shot into the near post corner. This was a classy way to take the lead. 

Slade reacted immediately putting Symons on for Styche who had been effective and Liburd for Pollock who had been reasonable but not exceptional. Dawson was becoming the best midfielder on the pitch. He reads the game well and is in the right place at the right time through nous not luck. He blocked a Southport clearance, controlled and slid a ball across the defending line to give Vincenti a clear run in on goal. Vincenti’s shot was not strong and was easily saved.

Slade took Vincenti off and put Mooney on. Southport replacing the hard-working Woods with Green. Southport’s tails were up and Cullinane Liburd did well to scramble the ball clear. Hereford were going for an equaliser leaving themselves even more open at the back. Substitute Green took the ball just in Hereford’s half and rampaged forward on the right turning Bodenham inside and out, slipping inside Cullinane-Liburd and rasping across Hall into the far corner. His agent will already have put this superb goal at the top of his highlights reel. Hereford were behind to two top class goals.

Three Southport Supporters Could Not Believe They Were Now 3-1 Ahead

In the dying minutes Hereford pressed and won a throw. Cullinane-Liburd sent in a long one and it bounced through the box for Mooney tap in at the far post.

Another unnecessary loss. The team coach arrived only just before the game after delays. Some fans said that the coach does a tour of service stations up the M5 and M6 to pick up players for the game. This if true seems unprofessional. Any business would know that going through Spaghetti Junction during rush hour when you have an important appointment is not a wise move. Hereford now have very well-paid players at this level and the obligation should be on them to get where the club wants, when it wants, not to help them out at the risk of being unprepared for matches. In the first twenty minutes some of the players were stretching as if they were not long off the coach, and in this period Hereford went a goal down.

Dawson was man of the match not just sniffing opportunities and making goal chances but also barking at players with lesser work ethics. If he can stay fit, he looks a future captain. Tom Owen-Evans may have a long wait for another start.

The defence is wide open and struggled with crosses and long throws all night long. Bodenham has looked the best centre back this season, but he’s not a left back. He’s doing the best he can, but it was notable that Southport targeted the area between him and Gowling, and all three goals came via this corridor of uncertainty. Gowling has looked commanding against lesser teams, but his age may be catching up with him. A superb servant last season, like Ryan Green there comes a point when the mind is still sharp, but the body cannot respond as wanted. He’s a top professional but a succession plan is needed as he can’t go on for ever. Vincenti linked up well with Dawson and always looked a good outlet on the left. Styche put in a good shift and neither Symons nor Liburd made much headway.

Hereford need to get better at penalties. Last week they went out of the cup that way, and at Southport at least a point and a place in the play off positions was lost. Good teams going away who score two goals get at least a draw. At Southport and Bradford that’s not happened. Player for player Hereford are better than Southport, but Southport were a more effective team and as a consequence earned three points. 

Southport 3 Hereford 2 

Hereford: Hall, Thomas, Bodenham, Pope, Cullinane-Liburd, Gowling, Vincenti (Mooney 76), Dawson, Styche (Liburd 70), Pollock (Symons 70), Ash. 

Subs: Owen-Evans, O’Sullivan.