Sunday, October 10, 2021

Same Stuff, Different Day

Harwood Bull watched Hereford fail to take any points from Darlington yesterday.

Once again Hereford FC came up short against a team they could have taken at least a point off if only they could have found that final incisive ball. Darlington took the lead in the 8th minute and held on to win 1-0, despite some second half pressure. Half time substitutions and reorganisation improved the Hereford performance, but as Josh himself (and the opposing manager) said, having got into good wide positions, the Bulls were unable to put in a cross that tested the home defence. 

The Bulls started with a back four of Hodgkiss, Andoh, McNally and Hancox in front of keeper Jordan Wright, on loan from Nottingham Forest. With Brandon Hall still unavailable due to injury, presumably Gowling didn’t feel that the inexperienced 2nd string keeper, Nykah Liburd-Hines was ready for a league game yet. Pollock filled the defensive midfielder slot, with Kouhyar and Lloyd in slightly more advanced roles. Smith led the line with Hulbert and Owen-Evans wide right and left respectively. The resulting formation varied somewhere between 4-5-1 and 4-3-3. 

After just 6 minutes the Darlo number 11, Rivers, drove a low ball across the face of the Hereford goal, fortunately no one from the home team could get a touch. But just two minutes later the same player fed the ball to full back Ben Hedley, who swung the ball into the box and Charman rose unchallenged to head home. 

The Bulls’ best chance to equalise in the first half came on 21 minutes. Kouhyar and Hulbert combined well on the right and played the ball infield to Pollock. He let fly with a powerful shot which was well saved by the home keeper. There was a bit of a scramble for the rebound but Hereford couldn’t manage to get a shot on target again. As so often this season Hereford continued to move the ball well without ever threatening a breakthrough. Smith was winning his fair share of headers but lacked close support to pick up the flicks and knock downs. TOE looked full of life but out of position, as did Hulbert on the other flank. There weren’t too many more scoring chances for either side before halftime. 

There was a painful moment for Darlington’s Smith following a solid challenge by Hodgkiss. He was down for two or three minutes before being taken off – he left the field at half time on crutches with a massive ice pack on his leg. The Hereford captain needed treatment as well but was able to carry on. 

Half time saw two changes for the Bulls. Pinchard on for Pollock, and Storey for Dan Smith. Hulbert moved to a central position with Storey on the right. The second half was more open than the first. Storey’s pace on the right created opportunities to get the ball into the box but the resulting crosses were easily cleared or dealt with by Taylor, the home keeper. Taylor was given the Man of the Match award, which contradicts the Darlington manager’s claim that he very little to do. 

Later on TOE gave way to McLean. I felt sympathy for Owen-Evans, he looked sharp and full of running but he’s not a left winger. McLean also showed a lot of pace to get past his full back but wasn’t able to deliver a telling ball into the danger area.

The Bulls’ best chance came on 57 minutes, when a shot from outside the box was only partly blocked and came to Lloyd. He hit a fierce shot which was well saved by the keeper, who was presumably doing very little at the time. Darlington threatened a couple more times towards the end, but Hereford’s defence held out.

Full time Darlington 1 Hereford FC 0

Hereford lineup:

Wright, Hodgkiss, Andoh, McNally, Hancox, Pollock (Pinchard), Kouhyar, Lloyd, Owen-Evans (McLean), Hulbert, Smith (Storey)

Subs not used: Liburd-Hines, Forsyth, Vincent

It’s all very frustrating. The team works hard and we have some skilful players. We just, to use manager-speak, “lack that bit of quality in the final third”. Or, to use fan-speak, “can’t put a decent cross in”. Josh Gowling is an able, likeable, and popular guy. Most of us believe and/or hope that it will come right in time, but during that time rather than looking up at the playoffs we will be looking nervously over our shoulders at the relegation places. If that goes on for too long the reservoir of good will with the fans that he’s built up may drain very quickly and put him under a lot of pressure and rob the team of confidence. That’s something none of us want to see.

Next week sees us host Solihull in the cup. We often look to the cup as a morale/revenue booster, but that will be a tough challenge.

Ever optimistic! Come on you whites!