Friday, December 18, 2020

Match preview - Nantwich Town vs Hereford FC

Given what’s gone before recently, Tuesday evening saw an unusually straightforward win for Hereford FC, and progression to the next round of the FA Trophy.

In keeping with the nature of 2020 generally, the Trophy this season is structured a little differently, in that the next round is staged immediately after, so this weekend the Bulls travel to Nantwich Town FC, who beat Witton Albion 5-2 away in the week in a derby match to savour, for people living in that bit of Cheshire at least. Probably a bit like when Lugwardine play Bartestree or something. Massive one that.

The Dabbers (yes, the Dabbers) compete in the Northern Premier League Premier Division, the same division as Stafford Rangers, who dumped the Bulls out of the FA Cup this season. Incidentally Stafford haven’t actually won in the league yet, which doesn’t do much to make that Cup exit any easier to swallow.

Nantwich are doing better than Stafford, but haven’t exactly taken the division by storm, sitting in 15th place. Centre forward Scott McGowan has scored four in the Dabbers’ last two games, and will presumably be harder to contain as a goalscoring force than Shane MacGowan would be.

The Cheshire side have some recent pedigree in the Trophy, reaching the semi-finals in 2015/16.

Fascinatingly, there should be a Hall in both goals for this match.

The Nantwich manager has, ahead of Saturday, described the Bulls as ‘an ex-non-League club’, which I couldn’t quite get my head round, so if he’s indulging in some sort of very leftfield mind games they’ve certainly worked on me.

At the time of writing there's been no announcement on the arrival of any new recruits to bolster the Bulls squad, so any walking wounded from Tuesday night will presumably have to be patched up and sent back out. Kennedy Digie missed the last game with the hamstring problem he picked up against Fylde, but will hopefully be fighting fit for Kidderminster on Boxing Day. Yan Klukowski could again stand in as a makeshift replacement, although young Toby Raison is also in contention after making his debut on Tuesday.

Admittedly St Neots were lower-graded opposition, but it was good to see the goals going in again for the Bulls in midweek, and refreshing to see them kept out at the other end. There seems to be more of a calmness and authority in defence now, with Brandon Hall back in goal, and that bodes well for the festive league fixture programme and beyond. There is of course a constant feeling that the squad is only an injury or two away from being very stretched indeed, and there was slightly concerning talk in the week from Steve Burr about other clubs having Bulls players on their shopping lists, but if everyone can stay fit and stay at the club, and if recent progress can be maintained, the NLN this season really shouldn’t hold too many fears.

Anyway, first things first, this game. Nantwich, one would imagine, will ask a few more questions than St Neots did, but the sort of professional approach seen on Tuesday should mean that an increasingly assertive Bulls team have all the answers, and inch closer to a second Wembley appearance in just a few short years. They’re just like buses Wembley appearances, although you wouldn’t parade a massive bull around a bus, unless like me you’re from one of those one-bus-a-week bits of deepest rural Herefordshire, where that sort of behaviour is the norm.