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Monday, May 11, 2020

From The Archives - Bulls Into Play-Off Final

14 years ago today Hereford United defeated Morecambe and so reached the Conference Play-Off finals.

Guy's the magic match winner

Finally! They've done it! It's taken three attempts, but Hereford United are through to the Conference play off final for the first time! But they made hard work of it and took the lead three times in total, in an enthrawling second leg encounter at Edgar Street, with Morecambe the visitors.

Unchanged from the first leg were The Bulls, and they began where they left off in the second half from the first leg, which finished 1-1. United were dominant from the start and with just six minutes on the clock Tamika Mkandawire sent the home crowd into raptures, with a fantastic header from Alex Jeannin's corner. The Frenchman though, turned from hero to villan in minutes as Morecambe went down the other end a minute later and Jeannin blatantly fouled in the area, and Wayne Curtis equalised from the penalty spot.

United, with the huge home vocal support behind them all the way, didn't dwell on it however, and continued to dominate, and just five minutes later local lad Andy Williams scored a fantastic goal. Adam Stansfield raced away down the left before nipping a ball inside to Rob Purdie. Purdie played the ball into the feet of Williams who, with his back to goal and a defender behind him, somehow managed to turn and fire, all in one motion, into the bottom corner of the net leaving 'keeper Steven Drench stranded.

Minutes later, the visitors were almost on level terms again when Mkandawire headed a long ball straight into the path of the oh-so-dangerous Michael Twiss, and his first time shot flew inches wide of Wayne Brown's post. Simon Travis then went close for Hereford, as he stung the hands of Drench with a drive from twenty-five yards, before he crossed for Williams, but his header was easy for the loanee 'keeper. Morecambe enjoyed a good spell of play for around ten minutes before half time, but they couldn't make anything of it. Hereford though, finished the half more brightly, and went in at the break 2-1 up.

The Shrimpers were to enjoy another good spell after the interval, not because of they're renewed approach after the restart, but because United gave them much more time on the ball in the middle. And Hereford paid the price for this. With eight minutes of the half gone Danny Carlton broke in behind the Bull's backline, forced a save from Brown at a tight angle, but the ball fell into the path of Twiss who netted from a central position.

Hereford should have equalised almost immediately, but first the tenacious Andy Ferrell was denied, following Williams' cross, by a great save at the far post and then, with Drench stranded but a crowd of players to avoid, Purdie struck the foot of the post from the edge of the box before the ball was put behind. Morecambe took control of the game once again for a period in a second half that they had the better of, and so Graham Turner made a double change, on seventy three minutes, with Stansfield and Jeannin - who had a poor game in all honesty - making way for Stuart Fleetwood and Jamie Pitman. Simon Travis went to left back.

Curtis almost grabbed an astonishing second, but his thunderbolt from thirty yards flashed just inches over the bar, and then the man of the moment, Guy Ipoua, was introduced with eight minutes remaining. However, he didn't make his impact until the game had gone into extra time, having finished 2-2 after ninety minutes.

The first half of extra time saw chances for both and Brown had to pull off a good low save from Gary Thompson while Purdie, at the other end, almost stole in as the Morecambe defence left a long ball go through to Drench. In the second half, Twiss forced Brown into another good low save, shooting from the left early on, before Ipoua produced the magic. He raced on to, yes actually ran, a long ball and managed to beat two defenders to the ball and knock it on for himself with his head, before it bounced at a perfect height for him to smash stunningly, from around twelve yards out to the right of the box, into the far top corner of the net, causing scenes of mayhem in the stands among the Hereford fans in a crowd of 6,278 (including 528 away fans).

Hereford played out the rest of the half with their backs to the wall, pretty much, but did it well with the full backing of the Hereford faithful. Fleetwood had a good chance on the break to double the advantage when Purdie played him through, but he failed in rounding the goalie, not that it really mattered. The final whistle was blown after two minutes of injury time - cue mass celebrations, including a pitch invasion from the Hereford fans. Once the pitch was cleared, the players came back out for a lap of honour, and the delight was there to see for everyone!

It was, all in all, a very entertaining game helped by two sides who went out to play football and win. The atmosphere from both sets of fans was a credit to their clubs, and must have been a huge help to both teams. Now we need to do it all again in Leicester!

HUFC: Brown, Green, Mkandawire, Beckwith, Jeannin, Purdie, Ferrell, Stanley, Travis, Williams, Stansfield. Subs: Mawson, Pitman, Carey-Bertram, Fleetwood, Ipoua.

I've worked eight years for this says Turner.

A jubilent Graham Turner told BBC Hereford and Worcester of his joy of getting the Bulls to the Play-off final.

"I've worked eight years to get the club back into the League and we've given ourselves a great opportunity.

"So when you look at eight years work, that's how much it meant in that ninety minutes.

"I thought the atmosphere was incredible and the scenes at the end were fanastic."

Midfielder Craig Stanley summed up the match.

"Each time we went ahead we let them back into the game and, to be fair, second-half I think they were the better team.

"But in extra time we seemed to get second wind and we came back into the game a little bit.

"And then Guy's got the goal and that's what Guy can do. It was a great finish.

"It's fanastic to go through."