Friday, October 22, 2021

Match preview - Alfreton Town FC vs Hereford FC

Hereford FC get back to National League North action on Saturday with a trip to Derbyshire, and a match against Alfreton Town at the Impact Arena.

Following last week’s plucky, persuasive, but ultimately losing performance against Solihull the Bulls will be looking to finally get their league season properly started, and to move away from the NLN relegation zone. To do so they’ll need someone to start bundling in a few scrappy goals from a yard out. Admittedly there hasn’t been much luck going Hereford’s way in terms of the ball dropping kindly in those areas, but neither does it look like anyone’s really got that happy knack of actually being in those areas when the ball does drop kindly there. Irritating really, like when my kids say “Wait” gratuitously at the start of every sentence they utter, or “I know, right?” once a year when I unwittingly say something they agree with. When did I suddenly get old?

It was good to see a couple of new faces brought in before the Solihull game, and offered more evidence that the Gowling-Burr partnership is generally quick to look to remedy things when they’re not working. One could, if one was so masochistically inclined, recall at this point that Mr Tim Harris used to be in charge of attempting to remedy things when they weren’t working. Maybe that was just a bad dream or a sick joke.

Victor Sodeinde looked like a player the last time he was at Edgar Street, and should be a useful addition. His last club Notts Forest may be two-time European Cup winners, but do they have a Welsh Cup to their name? ‘No’ is the simple answer to that, and that’s presumably the angle Victor’s agent came up with in selling the move as a step up in his career. Once back up to speed following a period without a club he should score and create.

The arrival of Jaden Charles at left back really does cast some doubt on Mitch Hancox’s status in the squad if he’s fit, with the ex-Macclesfield player now looking to be third choice in his specialist position when Patrick Fini returns to fitness. For whatever reason, the performances just haven’t been there from him so far this season, and whether the club can afford to have one of its higher earners as third choice left back is open to ridicule debate.

Ollie Hulbert has now left the club and started a loan spell with Gloucester. There was little in his performances for the Bulls to suggest that he was ‘the one’, although at just 18 years old he’s certainly got time on his side. Dan Smith could therefore start up front, and has shown enough ability in the air to suggest that if the others could only find his nut with a few choice crosses he could add to his seasonal goal tally.

The midweek win against Bromyard needn’t detain us too long here in terms of its relevance, although it should be remembered that the loss to Westfields in 2018 in the same competition gave the board some useful ammunition with which to bump off Peter Beadle. If they were to have done the same to Josh Gowling had Hereford lost on Tuesday I think I would have just packed it all in.

Saturday’s hosts, in contrast to the visitors, have enjoyed a good start to the season, sitting seventh in the table. They've won three of their last four games but have lost as many games as they’ve won over the course of the season, so they’re far from unbeatable. The Reds’ top scorer, defender Tom Allan, left the club last week to join Celtic. No, Farsley Celtic.

It has to be said that the quality of the games between these clubs in the NLN to date hasn’t exactly brought to mind comparisons with the 1970 World Cup Final, or even the 1990 Welsh Cup Final, but this Bulls squad, despite the misfiring start, is a good deal stronger than previously. The Reds’ defenders would have no hesitation in finding row Z if the Impact Arena’s seating plan extended that far, and in attacking mode they will look to use the channels, play the percentages and try to exploit the second balls, none of which is particularly easy on the eye. What they won’t fancy is defending against quick and incisive grass-based passing football.

Following the Darlington loss and then the FA Cup exit, it’s back to a feeling more of hope than expectation here, but Harry Pinchard’s positivity after the Solihull game was hugely encouraging to hear, and suggests that there’s still a great deal of belief and desire to turn things round in the dressing room (ie turn things round on the pitch, not a desire to reorganise the layout of the dressing room – that would be a complete waste of desire). It will click soon and when it does there will be fireworks. If you agree with that assessment you can now get 250/1 on Hereford winning the NLN. That’s actually quite tempting, and Josh Gowling has spoken of the need to gamble more.