Thursday, December 24, 2020

Match preview - Hereford FC vs Kidderminster Harriers

Hereford FC get back to league duties on Boxing Day, hosting neighbours Kidderminster Harriers at Edgar Street, kick off 3pm.

Like the Gloucester game earlier in the season but more so, this is one that supporters unable to get a ticket will feel frustrated to miss. When the teams met at Edgar Street on New Year’s Day a Stephen Dawson-inspired second half performance saw the Bulls win 2-1, but the penalty that set the hosts on their way that day was softish and awarded thanks to a noisily persuasive Meadow End. That twelfth man won’t be anything like as vociferous this time, with only a thousand allowed into Edgar Street. With Hereford in form and Harriers enjoying a good start to the season, there would have been a good crowd and buzzing atmosphere normally – oh well, maybe next Christmas in the National League Premier following promotion for both clubs this season.

Last Saturday, the squad proved that it could do spirited and gutsy, winning a right old slog on a bog at Nantwich, making it three wins in a week. Those wins have come at a cost though, with Dan Jones going off injured on Saturday, joining his fellow full-back Jared Hodgkiss on the treatment table, with the captain missing the game entirely after picking up an injury against St Neots. On the plus side, increasingly influential Kennedy Digie could return at centre back, and Dylan Jones, slotting in seamlessly as Hodgkiss’s replacement in the Trophy game, should do so again if needed.

Before the recent break from league action for the Trophy victories, the Bulls beat high-flying Fylde, so despite Kiddy sitting second in the league that win should persuade the players that manager Josh Gowling is right to believe they have no need to fear anyone in National League North. Frankly, it’s about time the club believed in itself again after a couple of years of mediocre coaching staff from Gloucester inculcating a Gloucester-level mindset, which meant that drawing at home to clubs like Guiseley was considered OK. It’s only right and fitting that such results would now be considered rubbish again, because they’re not OK for a club playing at Edgar Street in black and white. Never have been and never will be.

In what must have been and continue to be very challenging times to kick-start a club after two years of that mediocre mindset, Gowling and Steve Burr seem to be starting to bring some ambition, motivation and pride into the mix. Having both spent part of their careers on the payroll at Aggborough, they'll be particularly keen to come out top in this one.     

Kiddy have started the season strongly, with 23 points from 11 games, four points behind leaders Gloucester but with two games in hand, and they’ve won three of their last four league games. Having said that, two of those wins came against Alfreton and Curzon Ashton, which shouldn’t really earn three points like normal wins because it’s Alfreton and Curzon Ashton, and the one match in those four that wasn’t won was a loss at home to Kettering. They could, therefore, be in a slightly false position up there in second. One thing they definitely are is well rested, having been knocked out of the Trophy 1-0 by lowly Stamford (who the Bulls face in the next round - small world), and were therefore without a game last weekend.

Experienced defender Keith Lowe is now in his third spell at Aggborough after stints with York, Cheltenham and Macclesfield, and with 500+ matches under his belt his marshalling of the back four is well practised. Up front Amari Morgan-Smith is another player who has returned to the club, and is a big, bustling presence. However, the big danger from the visitors will be winger Ashley Hemmings, a reliably consistent goalscorer with plenty of Football League experience. That said, have Kidderminster got a player in the top four of the NLN goalscorer hit parade like a certain other club? No they have not. How refreshing is that after two seasons of playing clubs with strikers who’d scored more than the entire Bulls team put together?

It’s not the easiest set of festive fixtures for a small Bulls squad starting to pick up injuries, with in-form Leamington sandwiched between the Kiddy games, and then a long trip to Spennymoor as 2021 gets into gear, but a decent points return from that lot will give considerable cause for optimism.

And on that note, merry Christmas everyone, and here’s optimistically to a much better year ahead for Hereford FC (and, ahem, the wider world too of course).