Sunday, March 08, 2020

Have Hereford Turned The Corner At Last?

Harwood Bull watched Hereford win at Farsley.

Tell me I’m not dreaming! Two wins on the road for the Bulls in less than a week. Following up their outstanding 4-1 victory at league leading York City on Tuesday evening they came away from a very windy Farsley today with a well deserved 2-1 win.

Hereford started with almost the same line-up that kicked off against York, with the one change being O’Sullivan in for Finn. Playing the first half with the strong wind at their backs the Bulls attacked strongly from the start, and it wasn’t long before they took the lead. Anderson’s deep cross from the left wing was knocked back into the middle by Hodgkiss – it fell to Owen-Evans whose low shot through a crowded penalty area found the bottom corner of the net in the 5th minute.

Sorry No Photo Of Owen-Evans Shot

Today was the first time that I’d seen John-Lewis play, and after only 3 or 4 minutes I wrote in my notes “looks like a proper centre forward”. His hold up play, flick-ons and ability to bring others into the game was something we’ve lacked for a long time. His awareness of what was going around him was excellent and he seemed to raise the game of his team mates. Mooney in particular linked up well with him and after 20 minutes he latched onto John-Lewis’s knock down, turned and made the space for a shot which was unfortunately wide of the target.

Shortly afterwards Farsley had their first chance of the game. Spencer either made a well timed run, or was suspiciously close to offside, depending on your point of view, before blasting the ball high over the goal when he should at least have forced a save from Brandon Hall. Following that the home team started to come more into the game, but Hereford still made chances, both John-Lewis and Mooney having shooting opportunities without managing to hit the target.

In the closing minutes of the half Hereford got the ball into the Farsley penalty area from free kicks and corners, which mainly resulted in lots of pushing and shoving and no real chances, and the first 45 minutes came to an end.

Half Time: Farsley Celtic 0 Hereford FC 1

The first real incident of the second half came when Pope, who was shepherding the ball out for a goal kick was pushed by a Farsley striker, resulting in him crashing into the metal fencing. Strong words were said, and inevitably most of the 22 players on the pitch felt the need to pile into the resulting melee. While Pope was being attended to, and just when it seemed to have calmed down, things flared up again and there was a further scuffle involving Brandon Hall, who received a yellow card, as did Spencer for the home team. There may have been others.

It’s hard not to see footballers as an undisciplined rabble when events like that occur. Excuses are frequently made on the grounds that they care passionately about the game, but I always contrast them with rugby players. No one can tell me that the oval ball guys care any less but they seem mostly able to hold back and let the referee do his job, whereas the whole culture in football seems to be one of niggly confrontation, and the desire to influence, deceive and intimidate the referee runs right through the game.

Back to the actual football. On 65 minutes John-Lewis was through on goal, despite appeals from Farsley for offside. The big number nine unselfishly squared the ball to Mooney who almost stumbled over the ball but was able to tap into the empty net for a 2-0 lead. 

Just three minutes later Mooney hit a dipping shot from outside the area which beat the keeper but thumped against the bar.

On 74 minutes Farsley were awarded what I thought was a dubious free kick (not that I’m biased, you understand) in a central position 20 yards out. Will Hayhurst curled the ball up and over the wall and into the bottom corner to reduce the deficit. 

For a while after that the momentum shifted and Farsley looked stronger. The wind continued to gust round the ground, but Farsley seemed unable to take as much advantage of it as the Bulls did in the first half. They frequently over hit crosses and long balls, the right back being a particular culprit. When they did get the ball in Hereford’s box they caused a few scrambles without really threatening to score. With the game well into the extra minutes added on for the Pope/fence incident Mooney had a chance to wrap things up – he did well but his effort didn’t quite have enough power and the ball was cleared off the line as it bobbled towards the corner of the goal.

They hung on for the next couple of minutes and the whole team showed their delight at the final whistle.

Full Time : Farsley Celtic 1 – Hereford FC 2

The players and coaching staff can take pleasure in a job well done. No-one had a bad game, but my vote for man-of-the-match would have to go to John-Lewis for his all round play. He made quite an impression – one of the home supporters behind me said “can we have your number 9 please?”. 

Martin Riley was solid at the back, winning most of his headers, showing no signs of worry that his rather fragile shoulder could let him down. Hodgkiss kept driving the team forward, Pollock filled the defensive midfield slot competently and the whole team seemed re-energised. The players shipped out on loan by the previous regimes stepped up and put in a good shift.

In the latest of his always excellent match previews on Bulls News Mark Jones wondered if the win at York “was a freakish one-off or whether finally the jigsaw pieces are falling into place”. We can’t get too carried away but today’s result looked as if a picture might be emerging from the chaos of the largely wasted last eighteen months. Well done to Josh Gowling and everyone involved.

On to Kettering on Tuesday night. Three in a row?

 Hereford FC: Brandon Hall, Jared Hodgkiss (Capt.), Jevan Anderson, Ben Pollock (Jordan Cullinane-Liburd), Jason Pope, Martin Riley, Tommy O’Sullivan (Kieron Thomas), Jacob Jagger Cane, Lenell John-Lewis, Kelsey Mooney, Tom Owen-Evans,

Subs not used : Rowan Liburd, Brad Ash, Rhys Davies