Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Match report - Hereford FC vs Tamworth FC

Hereford FC crashed out of the FA Cup last night, unable to score over 210 minutes of football across the tie against lower-graded Tamworth. Indeed, they nearly failed to score in the penalty shoot-out too, dismally mustering just one goal to Tamworth's three.

On a warm breezy evening in front of a sparse crowd, Russell Slade went with a strong starting XI, reflecting his stated liking of a Cup run.

The hosts started brightly; Peter Vincenti's curled effort after four minutes was never going to hit the net, but was the result of some good passing build-up play.

A minute later Tamworth broke, with captain Josh Gowling 'taking one for the team', illegally putting a stop to the attack with a body check and picking up a yellow card in the process.

The action continued to come thick and fast, firstly with Tom Owen Evans doing well and being unlucky not to create a clear chance, followed by a defensive mistake from Hereford, who were getting cut open too easily on occasion with one direct ball forward. Brandon Hall saved smartly to keep the scores level, although the chance woke the travelling supporters up.

A strong but fair tackle on Vincenti led to mistaken calls for a yellow card, and the midfielder could have got himself into deep water with his retributory tackle, had he connected. Despite this, he was certainly Hereford's stand-out performer in a bright start to the match on the left, occasionally drifting into the middle in looking to influence play and confuse the Lambs defence.

More good play from the Bulls resulted in a stinging effort from Tommy O'Sullivan from 25 yards, which the keeper did well to save, although he also clearly took delight in making it look a bit harder than it was.

After 20 minutes, Tamworth, whilst not exactly chasing shadows, were starting to look outclassed, and a goal looked imminent. Another smooth passing move resulted in a Vincenti shot being saved, and then Mike Symons saw a header go just wide. The only negative at this point was a relatively subdued start from in-form Jordan Nicholson.

Tamworth, in a luminous kit rivalling some of the worst the Midland League had to offer, then started to look to run the clock down.

Nicholson, livening up a little, then came close to playing Owen-Evans in on goal on the break, before having a rasping shot blocked himself, and then a cross-cum-shot which hit Symo's head and went wide.

Vincenti, in chasing down a labouring Lambs defender, fell awkwardly and seemed to feel his groin, if you'll forgive the expression. Luckily, given how instrumental he'd been to that point, he was able to continue (playing rather than feeling his groin).

More intense pressure from the Bulls, brilliantly instigated by Kieran Thomas, who was rivalling Vincenti as man-of-the-half, came to nothing, and as the players trotted back to restart Jordan Cullinane Liburd picked up a yellow card for an off-the-ball incident, giving Tamworth further opportunity to waste a bit of time. The dazzling new electronic information board displayed a fancy yellow card graphic, allowing the cynics in the crowd an ironic oooooh and aaaaaah in mock wonder at this technical innovation.

Overall in the first half Tamworth looked like rabbits caught in headlights, but Hereford had no-one up front to finish off some really good build-up play.

**H/T 0-0**

Tamworth came out for the second half shooting towards the Meadow End looking much brighter, and quickly got a foothold which led them to realise that they could get something out of the game, which again brought their supporters to life. Equally, and inexplicably, Hereford seemed to lose all momentum.

Nicholson With A Cross
Towards Symons Who Is Impeded
 Jacob Jagger Cane, who was getting bashed about a bit by the Tamworth players following his assertiveness in the first match I suppose, cleared off the line, as again following a one-pass Tamworth break and some very naive Hereford defending a golden opportunity presented itself to the visitors but was squandered. 

As frustration grew around the ground, Russell Slade got booked for a bit of effing, jeffing and gesticulating, but in fairness to the faithful few who turned up for this one they sensed the need to give the players a lift and positive noise levels rose.

Debutant Ben Pollock replaced Jagger-Cane, who was going to be either stretchered off or sent off depending on who got to whom first.

Tamworth by now knew full well that they could win, and Brandon Hall got booked foolishly for getting involved in some silly pettiness, frustrated perhaps that he'd more than done his bit at one end whereas at the other very little was happening.

Pollock got caught (no pun intended) but because the Tamworth player had already been booked the ref didn't see fit to show a second yellow (as they do), despite it being warranted. However, frankly, in hindsight, you just know it wouldn't have made a blind bit of difference to the result if the player had been sent off. 

Brad Ash replaced Vincenti, who was presumably struggling after his first half injury, and gave a bit of zip belatedly up front, but as the game moved into extra time any quality that had been in evidence previously (which was almost exclusively in the first half) disappeared and it became a slogathon.

Jordan Cullinane-Liburd Tuscles In The Box
When Kieran Thomas was yellow-carded for a fairly typical Kieran Thomas challenge on the edge of his own penalty area, there was at least the option to ooooh and aaaah again at the yellow card image on the lovely screen, but instead it malfunctioned and showed an advert for Dawleys which was brighter than the surface of the sun, leading to oooohs and aaaaahs of a different, headache-inducing kind.

There was then just time for Brandon Hall to pull off an amazing double save, for substitute Kyle Finn to cleverly commit a yellow-card foul far enough from the tiring ref for the latter to deem it not worth him staggering over to administer the card, for nothing to stick to an exhausted Symo, and for Pollock to get sliced in two by a tackle that was probably more tired than malicious.

Kyle Finn With A Ball Into The Area Which Eventually Hit The New Scoreboard.

The penalty shoot-out went really badly. Pollock's was at least saved. Owen-Evans and Symo were aiming somewhere north of Lyde, and possibly hit that target. Brad Ash scored but it was all too late. The best bit of the whole sorry evening was when a Tamworth player, using different maths to everyone else, suddenly, in the middle of the as-yet unresolved shoot-out, broke free from his more numerate team-mates and legged it towards his adoring fans thinking that it was all over. How he must have wished the Edgar Street turf could have swallowed him whole. 

Hall, Vincenti, Nicholson and Thomas stood head and shoulders above the other players I thought. If the rest of the squad could reach their levels there wouldn't be an issue. As it is, there's no threat up front, and the defence, centrally at least, is porous. Russell Slade obviously isn't to blame for recruiting decisions made prior to his arrival, but hopefully he can now rectify those decisions within the confines of the budget and whatever contracts players who aren't quite up to it have been put on.

Just like the new electronic visual display board, this squad is very much a work in progress.

Players: Hall, Thomas, Bodenham, Jagger-Cane, Cullinane-Liburd, Gowling, Vincenti, O'Sullivan, Symons, Owen-Evans, Nicholson

Subs: Pope, Pollock, Muirhead, Finn, Ash, Davies, Burwood 

Att: 1271 

Erratum - in my preview of the initial match vs Tamworth, I wrote something to imply that regionalisation in the Cup bears some resemblance to geographical reality, but no it just seems to follow the flawed logic of the National League and Hereford is still whippets and Hovis in its northern-ness. Not that it matters a jot now, but apologies all the same.