Sunday, October 24, 2021

Returning Hero Haines Saves A Point

Son of Eric watched Hereford draw 3-3 at Alfreton

On a dry, overcast day Hereford set up with yet another change in their defensive line. Jordan was in goal, Andoh moved to right back, McNally paired with Pollock in the centre and skipper Hodgkiss moved to the problem left back position. In midfield Forsyth was rewarded for a fine performance against Bromyard with a start in the holding position, Pinchard played on the right and Lloyd on the left. Up front Storey played in the centre with Smith on the right and Owen-Evans on the left. Both wide players dropping back when out of possession to make for five in midfield.

Hereford started in lively fashion with Storey breaking forward and winning a corner. From the corner Owen-Evans shot was easily saved by Willis. Alfreton then broke up the left and fed winger Ceesay who easily beat Andoh and fired a low cross along the six-yard line for the unmarked Hobson to tap in at the far post. A couple of minutes later Andoh was again beaten by Ceesay, but his cross was cleared. Hereford bounced back well and went into their customary mode of looking good in possession without cutting through. Andoh was finding Ceesay a handful.

Smith and Owen-Evans had shots blocked and Hereford won a series of corners. Ceesay looked lithe, rangy, and eager constantly causing problems, and getting in a difficult cross which Jordan saved at the second attempt. Veteran striker Matt Rhead was enjoying a physical battle with all of Hereford’s defenders. The Symonseque striker fouled Pollock and when he refused to walk over to the man in black and instead made clear what a low opinion he had of referee Baines, he was booked.

Forsyth was caught awkwardly by an Alfreton midfielder and went down heavily. His ankle was injured, and he was replaced by Fini who dropped into right back, Andoh moving into the centre and Pollock took up defensive midfield duties. Hodgkiss got down the wing and threaded a ball to Storey in the centre forward position. He took the pass on the turn and was faced by three defenders. He took the ball across to the left and it looked like he may have taken it too far across, but he unleashed a venomous shot which despite Willis getting a hand on it was far too powerful, and it went through him and into the far side of the net for a deserved equaliser. An outstanding finish.

Alfreton attacked from the reset and working it around the edge of the box, Evans who looked the most creative of Alfreton’s players took a pot shot. Jordan got down in line with the shot, but the ball took a slight deflection and Jordan leant further to his right side only to get a weak hand on the shot which could not prevent it going into the net. Buoyed by this Alfreton attacked again and fed Hobson who was through one on one with Wright on the right side of the box. It seemed easy to score but Wright produced an excellent block making himself large. Hereford attacked and a cross from the left found Smith at the back post. He produced his customary excellent header at the far post, and the ball had goal written all over it. Willis twisted threw himself across and tipped it over the bar for an excellent save.

At half time Hereford deserved to be in front on the balance of play but two defensive lapses meant they were behind. Hereford came out positively and continued to play the better football with Alfreton fans singing No One Likes Us We Don’t Care showing acute self-awareness. Alfreton were first to threaten with Evans feeding Ceesay who should have got a shot on target but seemed to lose balance and shot wide. Alfreton were very niggly, and Evans was booked for a nasty late challenge on McNally. Wright dropped a cross, and the ball was cleared.

Good work by Fini on the right fed Smith who broke past a defender. In lots of space, it was time for a quality cross, so often a weakness for Hereford as a team this season Smith cut in looked up and fired a perfect ball. Storey had the simplest tap in and if he had missed it Owen-Evans was right behind. Smith was played in the wide right role against Bromyard and regularly got into dangerous positions. In that game he mostly cut inside and fired left foot shots wide. Getting towards the by-line here was ruthless and effective play by the loanee.

Hereford were well on top, and it seemed a matter of time before they took the lead. An Owen-Evans cross was headed just over the bar by Smith. The game had turned and Fini had done a masterful job in neutralising Ceesay. Fini got tight and used his pace to neutralise the most dangerous player for Alfreton in the first half. It was a mark of Fini’s impact that Ceesay was substituted for Reeves. McLean came on for Pinchard who got through a lot of work but whose crossing radar was starting to falter a little as he tired.

Andoh had struggled at right back but looked more comfortable as the right side of the centre half pairing. There is much to admire about Andoh, at York he was so effective against the distinguished veteran Donaldson that Donaldson retreated to the wide areas. Here Rhead offered a different challenging opponent and Andoh did not shy away from tackling him. Defending a long Alfreton ball down the right Andoh went toe to toe with Rhead for the ball winning it but also catching Rhead in the process. Rhead went down in seemingly massive agony. Captain Smith and his central defending partner came over moaning and groaning to the referee that this was high treason. Despite Rhea being close to the edge of the pitch the referee allowed the physiotherapist to be called on rather than getting Rhead to leave the pitch for treatment. With Alfreton under the cosh Rhead gave his team a breather until far too late the referee realised, he was being conned and asked Rhead to leave the pitch.

The free kick was punted forward and defended for a throw in on the halfway line. Rhead recovered like Lazarus re-entered the pitch. An Alfreton player stole ten yards along the line and launched a long throw to the edge of the area. Rhead slyly gave Andoh a little push to make room, produced a glorious back headed flick towards the gap between the penalty spot and the six-yard box for Reeves to escape McNally and Fini’s attention and volley in a sharp finish. There was a negligible protest from the Hereford players. No pointing out the throw in taken at the wrong place. Andoh could have gone down with the push rather than staying upright in no man’s land. Alfreton would have been wise guys.

Rhead demonstrated the streetwise game which is lacking from many of Hereford’s players, and he was also constantly talking, organising, and telling Alfreton colleagues where they should be and what they should do. Wright failed to claim an Alfreton corner dropping the ball and Lund fired over when he should have hit the target and sealed the game. To try and speed things up Storey came close to the keeper who eventually kicked the ball clear catching Storey with the ball and his foot as he did so. Again, the full Alfreton moaning mob berated the referee and wimpy Willis went down as if he had been shot. Referee Baines came over and ignored his better placed assistant to book Storey for being kicked on the leg by Willis. Storey tried to calmly explain what had happened and when the referee sees the video, he will see how easily he was fooled by the Alfreton Amateur Dramatic Society.

Gowling took off the hard-working Lloyd and brought on Haines. On Tuesday night against Bromyard, it had been good to see Haines return after his assault in the Leamington game. He had a patchy game in midfield but no matter how many times he miscued a pass he kept trying to play dangerous through balls, he has an excellent confident mindset. A free kick on the right was Hereford’s last chance, Owen-Evans sent it deep to the far post for Smith to rise and head back across goal for Haines the returning hero to tap in with what may have been his first touch. How fitting that a player taken out by a “physical” side should return to grab a point from a similarly set up team.

There was much delight and a small pitch invasion from about 20 of the 200 or so Bulls fans in the 668 crowd. In his post-match interview Gowling again bemoaned the referee and he had a point. However, Hereford need to wise up a bit as there are several more similar sides in this division who will again steal a point no matter how good Hereford’s football is. Hereford need to research referees. Baines ignored time wasting, telling players to speed up rather than booking them, so Alfreton continued with their theatrics. He easily succumbed to pressure. Too often it is Gowling and Burr on the side-lines advising the referee. Alfreton had a team of players who all understand the need to manage the referee and with that skill they gained a point they did not deserve.

Hereford played some beautiful football and got the goals they deserved. Their fitness and attitude are top class. Hodgkiss solved the left back problem position and on this performance Fini looks good for the right back position. Eventually this team is going to click