Friday, December 31, 2021

Match preview - Hereford FC vs Kidderminster Harriers

Following a frustrating football-free festive period, both for the club and for supporters going slowly crackers stuck at home, Hereford FC’s new year home match with Kidderminster Harriers would appear to be going ahead at the time of writing, despite Covid being rife in the Bulls camp.

It does seem unlikely that this will continue to be the case as Sunday’s 3pm kick-off gets nearer, but given the likelihood that several first-teamers are presumably among the afflicted, and assuming Harriers are more-or-less full strength, if it does take place this could be a trickier assignment than it otherwise would have been, and it would have been tricky enough anyway. Having said that, it could be that the first choice XI is entirely unaffected and the hosts can go into this somewhere near full strength, although this seems about as likely as Norwich winning the Premier League. The situation is made worse by the fact that the squad has yet to train ahead of the game. Contrastingly, the visitors are full-time players and have presumably been training as such.

Team news for the Bulls is as follows: anyone could be in goal. As far as I know I’m Covid-negative, so it could be me between the sticks, a position I’m even less suited to than the other bits of the pitch. In defence it could be Tom, it could be Dick, it could be Harry, it could be Mel Pejic.

In midfield, no-one’s seen Richard Whittingham for some time, so if he’s been kept locked up somewhere he should be virus-free and will play.

Up front is anyone’s guess, and it’s fairly safe to say that there will be more room than normal on the bench to stretch out a bit.

Kidderminster, it has to be said, are having a wonderful season. Next Saturday they host Championship side Reading in the third round of the Cup, and with the Royals falling foul of the financial fair play thing earlier in the season resulting in a docking of points and a transfer embargo, and a crippling injury list, a shock could be on the cards despite the divisional gulf between the two clubs. Kiddy are also flying high in the National League North, sitting fifth in the division, nine points behind leaders Brackley Town but with two games in hand. They’ve won four of their last five league games, with a draw in their last NLN match against Curzon Ashton the only blemish on their recent record, and that’s not too shameful a blemish given that the Nash looked very good indeed at Edgar Street recently. Going slightly further back, they’re unbeaten in eight in the league, having won six of those matches.

One tiny hint that they may be suffering from over-exertion on so many fronts could be their 4-1 loss to Boston in the FA Trophy last time out.

New signing Marcus Dinanga could make his debut here. The ex-Telford and Stevenage striker signed for an initial five-week loan stint from Altrincham just before Christmas.

Fellow striker Amari Morgan-Smith’s traditional Christmas sending off would help in balancing things out a bit, so some gentle tickles in the ribs and warm words of seasonal greeting early in the match from whoever’s playing in the Bulls defence could be a shrewd move to bring him to boiling point like a lanky Christmas sprout. He has four goals in 12 for Kiddy so far this season.

As ever winger Ashley Hemmings, a reliably consistent goalscorer with plenty of Football League experience, is a big threat, and Mel Pejic will have to be on his toes to contain him. He has scored nine times this season already (Hemmings rather than Mel). Captain Sam Austin has seven and Omari Sterling-James has five, so they know precisely where the onion bag is.

Regardless of whether it’s fair or not for this to go ahead given the beleaguered state of the Bulls squad, if they have to play the hosts will be keen to continue their recent excellent league record which has seen them jump from second bottom to mid-table, currently a very congested place to be. They’re still just five points short of a play-off place having not played any games recently, and have a game in hand over Boston, the current incumbents of that final play-off place. They also have games in hand over the seven clubs queuing up behind Boston and above Hereford.

So, there really is plenty to play for, even if it would perhaps be preferable if it could be played for in a week or two!

Happy new year to everyone. Here’s to a decent crowd and atmosphere on Sunday, a completed league season, and a bit of play-off action in spring, with a squad that’s back fit and firing, and if I AM in goal I promise to do my best, but don’t expect much, if anything.