Sunday, February 02, 2020


Son of Eric watched Alfreton play Hereford at the Impact Stadium yesterday afternoon.

However important football is to some the tragic death of Alfreton’s player Jordan Sinnott overshadowed this game with a bucket collection for his family, there was a minute’s applause before the game and on the 25th minute the game paused to mark his shirt number.

Hereford lined up with the impressive Henry continuing in goal, Pope moving to left back for the injured Greenslade, Cullinane-Liburd continuing his speed dating series of centre back partners with loan signing Jevan Anderson from Burton Albion seeing if he could be the “one” for a settled central defensive arrangement, and skipper Hodgkiss at right back.

In midfield Jagger Cane’s impressive cameo against Curzon Ashton saw him return to the defensive midfield role. Bray continued on the left, and O’Sullivan had the more creative role. Manager Gowling has initiated a rehabilitation of “offenders” programme with those unwanted by Slade given a chance and Finn was a surprise starter on the right. Tom Owen-Evans was in the hole behind Liburd.

Kyle Finn Was In The Starting Eleven
Alfreton have a lot of seats on terraces, but the town end terrace is proper old school and a good place to watch football. Despite scoring six in midweek local fans were uninspired with two Hereford fans being gleefully pounced upon by a local tout offering £14 tickets for only a tenner. It did not seem as if 518 were present and towards half the crowd appeared to be from the Shire. One Hereford fan had taken advantage of Northern rail’s ten pence flash sale for twenty pence return from Yorkshire for a dozen hours in Alfreton and the hope of seeing their first victory at the tenth attempt. The Alfreton club shop has an incredible number of programmes in a space little more than a ship’s cabin, it is clearly getting far more donations than purchasers as the electronic age sees programme collecting fading.

This was the windiest day Hereford have played on for some time with the electricity generating windmill in the distance spinning at maximum capacity to power the McDonalds golden arches high on a hill over Alfreton. Hereford started up the slope into the wind with both sides struggling to comes to terms with the conditions. Good work by Bray and O’Sullivan found Owen-Evans in the box and Alfreton reacted sharply to his clever flick to clear before Tom could shoot. Alfreton had scored six in midweek with a hat trick for Elliott, but there was little sign Hereford right side of defence were prepared for this. Elliot surged down the left and shot just wide of the far post.

A throw to Johnson saw his shot deflected just wide and a series of Alfreton corners came to nothing with Cullinane-Liburd at the heart of the defence clearing well. Good work by Bray won a corner. O’Sullivan passed to Bray who laid the ball into a great position for Liburd who toe-poked it over. Pope and Bray were combining well on the left and they set up O’Sullivan who fired narrowly over the bar.

Tommy O'Sullivan's Shot Went Just Over The Top Of The Bar
Alfreton replied by surging down the left at will with Hodgkiss constantly exposed to overlapping players. Hereford fouled Elliott and Johnson’s free kick was well struck but comfortably held by Henry. Amari and Elliott combined on the left and Elliott shot again just wide the warning signs were clear. Finn who had largely been a passive observer finally got the ball in a reasonable position on the right and swung in a cross, or if you are charitable possibly a cross shot but it had no fizz from Finn and was catching practice for Wright.

Jagger Cane won a challenge on the left and had two options to half turn and fire a hopeful semi-blind ball into the strong wind so it would be held up behind the Alfreton defence for the pace of Liburd or Bray to hopefully surge onto. Instead he took the “easier” option and laid a heavy touch ball back to Pope who was closed down and had to put the ball out for a throw in. When Alfreton threw the ball in and started to combine Jagger Cane jumped in and was booked. If he had launched the ball, he would not have had the opportunity to make the challenge which rightly resulted in his booking.

The wind was crying out for some probing balls in behind the Alfreton defence to see if Hereford’s attackers could outpace the Alfreton defence and see how their centre backs liked being turned as the ball was held up by the wind between the backline and the goalkeeper. By contrast Alfreton lost no opportunity to ping balls forward with the wind. Yet again Alfreton through Elliott broke down the left and this time combined well with Johnson to pass across in front of Hereford’s back line defending the eighteen-yard line. Whilst not in the same league, if you imagine Carlos Alberto’s 1970 World Cup wonder goal for Brazil, then the quality play by Alfreton and the super finish by right back Clackstone give you an idea of why Henry did not stand a chance.

Hereford raised a response Pope’s shot was blocked and the ball broke to Owen-Evans who slid a class ball to Jagger Cane at the near post, he took advantage of the unexpected space to clip an inviting cross and Liburd glanced the ball just over. Hereford broke quickly and Killock cleverly took out Bray just over the halfway line. A good professional foul done far enough up the pitch for a booking rather than a red card if ten yards further towards the goal. Another break from Hereford again on the left, and Bray fired into the side netting. 

Owen-Evans then shot just wide across the goal.

Hereford went into the changing rooms awaiting advice on how to get chances on target trailing to a quality team goal and needing a plan to stop Elliot and co attacking on the left.

There were no changes at half time for Hereford. Alfreton took off the booked Killock and replaced him with Lynch.

Hereford came out charged up and a lovely passing move saw Liburd sweetly lay the ball into the path of Hodgkiss up on the right, he crossed to the far post where Bray rose and headed into the top corner. Keeper Wright desperately leapt across to get a palm for a high class save.

I don’t know why I was daydreaming of the 1970 World Cup in the blustery Derbyshire Dales, but this was Gordon Banks like in the way he clawed out a ball which seemed destined for the “top bin.” An Alfreton defender desperately booted the ball away and it caught Bray square in the face dazing him. He took a little while to recover. Bray had a good game and had been the best of Hereford’s attacking threats he was not quite the same player for a while and was substituted a little later with Mooney coming on.

O’ Sullivan and Hodgkiss both had efforts and then Hodgkiss caught a beauty which was headed just inside the far post only for the impressive Forest loanee Wright to fingertip it out, the ball fell to Jagger Cane who did not catch the ball cleanly. 

Pope looked good coming forward and a shot from him was deflected for a corner. Owen Evans put an in-swinging ball from the corner for the penalty spot zone, but the wind caught it and the ball swirled over the bar.

Owen-Evans next corner was drilled in lower and caused consternation at the near post but was hacked away. There were shouts from the Hereford fans behind the goal of shoot when Tom took corners as with the strong wind a goal direct from a corner was not inconceivable.
After Hereford having most of the game Alfreton broke away down the left yet again Henry saving a sharp shot from Johnson, but as the ball lay on the ground Elliot had time to pick it up chop and tap home. The lack of reaction and anticipation from Hereford players was disappointing the goal seeming to happen in slow motion.

The attitude of most of Hereford’s players was excellent but Finn’s poor work rate stood out. Time and again danger man Elliot had been able to gang up on the exposed Hodgkiss and both goals came down this channel. It was just like the game at Chester where Nicholson went missing and Hereford conceded three in the first half. When Finn was on the ball, he made minimal impact. At Alfreton corners he was left up on the halfway line but never got into the game. Two goals down Gowling took Finn off and put Styche on. It is hard to believe that Burr and Gowling would not have briefed Finn about Alfreton’s dangerous left sided attack and the need to track back, his lack of endeavour was in stark contrast to the rest of the team. After Styche’s impressive cameo last week Reece was given half an hour, and improved Hereford immensely. What a difference a month makes. Styche’s commitment to working back saw Hodgkiss far more confident in coming forward and Reece found space and troubled his former teammates back line and soon got a strike in at goal.

Styche played the pass of the game a little dink into the box on the right-hand side which Liburd loped onto but he shot wide when he should have hit the target and probably scored. Hodgkiss was driving the team on as captain and even two goals down you felt if Hereford got one, they could get a second. A beautiful ball from Hodgkiss found Styche in acres of space which he had cleverly found just past the far post. It had to be on target, and it should have been a goal, but the header was miscued looping over the bar and Hereford’s best chance went begging.

Alfreton brought on East for Branson. Smith clattered Owen Evans on the edge of the box and it was unclear why referee Cox did not book him. Styche’s shot from the free kick was deflected for a corner. Thomas came on for O’Sullivan. This was O’Sullivan’s best performance for some time getting through lots of work often initiating attacks and getting a strike off which only just went over the bar.

Keeper Beaten But Jordan Cullinane-Liburd Couldn't Get To The Ball
Another Owen Evans corner broke to Mooney whose shot was cleared off the line. Soon after Mooney was found in space in the middle of the box seventeen yards out. His first touch was poor so his shot was weaker than it should have been, and it did not trouble the keeper. It should have been touch, fire, goal! Tomlinson came on for Alfreton captain Wilde. Hereford were on top and Owen Evans swung what I think was a drilled cross but with the wind it hit the far post bouncing wide.

On loan Elliott was Alfreton’s star man and he broke away got through and only a good save from Henry stopped Alfreton’s third.

A disappointing defeat but Elliott and Johnson played very well for Alfreton in difficult conditions. There was a lot of promise here and much good football although a little nous on how to play with the wind would have helped. There were more quality passes, attempts on goal and committed teamwork than in the last few Slade matches put together. Weirdly Hereford fans were saying this had been one of the most enjoyable away performances of the season despite the result. On another day they could have had five.

Henry is a quality keeper. Hodgkiss struggled against their star man due to a lack of support. Pope had a very good game and especially in the first hour linked up well with the dangerous Bray. Cullinane Liburd was here there and everywhere and my man of the match. As Anderson had only met the Hereford players on the day of the match his occasional lack of position was understandable, and he looked good on the ball.

O’Sullivan deserves a chance to build on his performance, Finn doesn’t. At one stage keeper Wright came out on the right and was stranded, the ball came to O’Sullivan thirty yards out in the middle of the pitch with a couple of defenders in the way but plenty of space. The goal must be the size of a barn door on its side. All Tommy had to do was loft a pass and hit the barn door! A lack of confidence meant he passed it wide to Hodgkiss and the moment was gone. Some of these players need some TLC.

Jagger Cane worked hard but it was hard to think of a pass that made an impact from him. Owen-Evans was clearly down as the man Alfreton wanted to keep quiet and he was closely marked. Last season one of the highlights was Tom waltzing away from Altrincham’s back line at Moss Lane for one of the goals of the season. He doesn’t seem quite as sharp and struggled to get free in open play. It was noticeable when Styche came on how much space he found, and he made some good runs which should have been picked up. Tom could learn a few tricks from the old master against tiring defences. Tom’s dead balls remain very good.

Liburd should have had at least one goal and could have had a hat trick. For a big man he is not that physical. Rough up those defenders Rowan! His efforts were either close to the keeper or just wide and over. When you’re through with Liburd’s ability to outpace defenders, you don’t have to score right in the corner, a foot or two inside the post will do. A John Mills goals video would show this.

Liburd was just not quite there but if it clicks the goals will come. It is good to see the club are doing things professionally. Forty years ago, another caretaker manager Tony Ford, in danger of relegation turned to the board who hired the poor man’s Uri Geller, Romark for psychological support. He turned out to be a charlatan who went to prison and United went down.

It’s good to know manager Gowling with his psychology degree is the man the board have turned to. If he can get just a bit more of the positive mentality, he demands from players, then things could turn upwards for Hereford very quickly. Who knows how popular Gowling hair wigs would be in the club shop?

Alfreton 0 Hereford 2