Sunday, March 01, 2020


Son of Eric reports from Edgar Street.

The last time Hereford played on a Leap Year Day was at Northampton when player manager defender Greg Downs scored in a 1 - 1 draw at Northampton 28 years ago. Manager Gowling resisted the temptation to emulate him starting with Riley and Anderson at the heart of defence, captain Hodgkiss on the right and Kieran Thomas coming back as a starter at left back with Pope moving to the bench.

In the middle of the park Jagger Cane was on the left, Pollock in the middle and at time dropping back to defend when the full backs attacked, Tom Owen-Evans on the right in the most offensive role. The attacking trident of Liburd on the left, Mooney on the right and the impressive John-Lewis in the middle. With Hereford Waitrose behind the Blackfriars end and part of the John Lewis Group, it feels like a sponsorship deal could be mutually beneficial. John-Lewis comes up on the new digital scoreboard in Shrewsbury kit sponsored by Marches supermarket Tuffins, after a month it would be good to see a photograph of him in a Hereford kit at the next home game, sponsored by John Lewis Partnership?

It was a bitter day with strong winds sleet, a little snow and yet sun shone through and created a couple of rainbows. Only 1600 Hereford fans came out, and the 100 from Altrincham sang lustily.

Hereford as seems the new normal under Gowling started the game the brighter but, yet again struggled to turn possession into goals. John-Lewis worked to create chances, Jagger-Cane had a shot blocked and Owen-Evans snatched at a shot which went well wide as Hereford attacked the Meadow End which was giving vocal encouragement. 

Altrincham got into the game, but their efforts were poor with Durrell not taking advantage of good positions with one shot straight at Hall. Hereford were matching their play off placed opponents but gradually Altrincham got more into the game and held possession more easily than Hereford.

Altrincham’s press was asking questions of Hereford’s uncertain defence. Anderson played some nice forward passes but opted for a crazy pass back to the goal. Thankfully it was such a preposterous idea Hulme did not react quickly enough and just failed to reach it, you could see Hulme kicking himself for not being ready for the possibility. Hereford broke forward and Mooney fired a shot from 20 yards which just went high and wide of the goal. With the swirling wind getting efforts on target was key.

Soon after Riley’s pass back to goal was anticipated by Altrincham’s Mooney and stretching to get it, he toe-poked it wide. A lucky escape and the defence did not look solid. The Altrincham centre forward Hulme looked impressive taking balls well and providing little flicks and clever passes to feed in the three midfielders pushing up behind him. Thomas at times was failing to keep his positional discipline on the left and getting sucked into the middle.

John-Lewis was again Hereford’s stand out player constantly working the Altrincham back line turning and getting off a shot. The game headed to half time looking as if it would be scoreless. Altrincham’s Mooney got the ball on the left and played a sharp one two with Hancock on the left. Liburd had been beaten but he got back, Mooney jockeyed him left and right and sent a deep curling cross to the far side of the box where Durrell was standing in a space the size of your front living room. He had time to take a couple of steps back steady himself and then sweetly volleyed the ball hard and low just to the right of Hall who got a hand to it, but the force of the ball saw Altrincham take the lead. Thomas had been sucked into the middle and Mooney was jogging back both not seeing the danger and leaving a big hole which Altrincham expertly exploited.

Durrell with his bright blond hair had been taking some stick which was verging on the homophobic for a couple of miscues earlier in the half from some of the well-oiled hospitality guests. This was a quality bit of skill to silence them.

Hereford tried to get back into the game, but too often promising positions broke down. Too often Mooney played an obvious ball which was intercepted or did not put enough zip on it again allowing defenders to get a toe in. The relentless John-Lewis turned on the edge of the box who fed Liburd, his crisp first time ball to Mooney saw Kelsey on the penalty spot with only the keeper to beat, his low shot went a yard left of the post when he had to hit the target. This would turn out to be Hereford’s best opportunity.

Altrincham won a corner and Hancock headed over. Liburd was taken off on the hour mark to be replaced by Finn. Liburd looks desperately short of confidence. One Meadow End fan commented on how little he gets off the ground relative to his size when he jumps, and his lack of a slightly harsher presence likening him to a pussycat. Liburd’s undoubtedly got the skill and some pace, but Hereford are on their third manager trying to unlock his talent.

Finn came on to give Hereford some width as apart from Hodgkiss getting forward Hereford had been narrow and predictable. Altrincham’s quality possession game was proving hard to break down and Altrincham’s Mooney was replaced by Peers. Pollock who had been one of Hereford’s better performers at Lads Club earlier in the week was making little creative impact and was substituted for O’Sullivan. Good work found John-Lewis for a sharp chance, under a challenge he shot just past the post. Finn and Owen-Evans shot over the bar as Hereford hoped to rescue a game again. Hereford had several corners and Mooney headed just over from one, goal scorer Durrell was replaced by Mahon.

Thomas remained as combative as ever, catching a stray elbow and having a nasty nosebleed. His blood-stained number 3 shirt was replaced with a number 19 shirt and he bravely tried to battle on, but he was substituted for Pope as the injury would not heal. Whilst at fault for the first goal Thomas is one of the very few players who will be considered for player of the season this year, his attitude standing in contrast to many. As the game petered out Altrincham worked the ball down the right and found Hulme in the inside right position, his snapshot seemed to slightly surprise Hall who parried the ball out. Substitute Richman was sharpest with three Hereford players not reading what might be happening and he tapped in. With both goals Hall might have done a little better, but he was left exposed.

The poorest performance under Gowling by some way with little width and not as much passion, Finn making little difference when he came on. Altrincham are a well-run club playing good football with less resources than Hereford but they’re fifth from top and Hereford look to finish fifth from bottom. Few contenders for man of the match, but John-Lewis always looked the most likely, so he wins a thin field.

Owen-Evans With A Chance Near The End Of The Game

The sooner this season is over, and Hereford can start again the better.

Hereford: Hall, Hodgkiss (C), Thomas, Pollock, Anderson, Riley, Jagger Cane, Owen-Evans, John-Lewis, Liburd, Mooney.

Subs: Davies, O'Sullivan, Ash, Finn, Pope