Before this season, Hereford FC had only lost 10 league games in their entire history after gaining three successive promotions as the phoenix club of Hereford United. However, the Bulls have now more than doubled that tally following a season of struggle in the sixth tier.
Peter Beadle – who took them to the National League North from the Midland League Premier Division – was dismissed early on in this campaign and they’ve since slipped further down the league with Marc Richards in charge.
In contrast, AFC Telford – a phoenix club themselves after coming into existence in 2004 – are a team on the rise after battling relegation themselves last year. They travelled to Hereford sitting outside the play-offs on goals scored and knew that at least a point was needed to take them back into the top seven.
The girlfriend and I headed to Edgar Street in searing Easter weekend weather to see the two local rivals in action.
The Laughing Linesman
Hereford were already safe from relegation before this game but it was surprising to see their opponents looking so poor when they still had a chance of playing in a higher league come August. The sun beamed down on much of the pitch, so I’m sure the heat had an effect on the players. But for most of the match it felt like a pre-season game, particularly as Telford’s squad looked surprisingly disjointed.
The home team took advantage of that and grabbed an early lead. Rowan Liburd was played through by James Waite and found the bottom corner with a lovely, curled finish around Telford goalie Josef Bursik. Not even that got the Bucks firing, though, and much of our match entertainment actually came via the linesman officiating in front of the away fans.
Nearly 250 travelling supporters made up the healthy following at Edgar Street but they were incredibly moany. Even though the officials gave Telford more free-kicks than they probably deserved, their fans shouted abuse at them nonetheless. The referee couldn’t hear most of the crap being spouted but the linesman in front of us definitely did. Credit to him, though, he laughed off all the flack he received – which included being called a ‘prick’ despite getting his decisions right.
One correct call, when Theo Streete kept the ball alive on the byline, enabled Telford to equalise through Shane Sutton’s tap-in. The team raced back to the centre circle in search of a winner but, even then, the game failed to light up.
Later on, the lino provided another welcome distraction when his flag broke. For about five minutes he resembled a wizard making offside calls with a wand. He laughed that off too and was definitely a better sport than the away fans, who went on to complain that players always ‘moan, moan, moan’ these days. Peak hypocrisy right there.
The one-all draw felt as bland as a goalless one and that same underwhelming feeling resonated during our look around Hereford. For a city, there really wasn’t much to do. The centre was dominated by naff shops, brown brickwork and stains of bird shit all over the streets. Hoards of Easter revellers were also making us feel unbearably claustrophobic and finding a decent spot to eat was a struggle too.
Hereford Cathedral was our only place of sanctuary. That really was stunning… on the inside, anyway. Outside, the paths were decorated with the same inescapable stains of bird shit. Clearly no one in Hereford can be bothered to clean them, even when they’re next to something so majestic.
Edgar Street was at the top of my visiting list since Hereford United were around. The club has seen so many great days, such as beating Newcastle in the 1972 FA Cup and then getting promoted to the second tier just three years later. Even in more recent times, the club has been as high up as League One. It was a real tragedy to see them go bust five years ago. But I’m pleased that they won’t be dropping back down a division having come up from the ninth level of English football already.
I didn’t particularly warm to their ground. From the pitch to the stands, it’s a very uneven dwelling and not that great on the eye. I also found it strange that they housed the away fans in one of the best areas of the stadium, right next to the pitch where they can have a significant impact on the atmosphere and affect the home advantage.
I was pleased to be at one of Hereford’s largest gates of the season, though. With over 2,000 fans making an effort when their team had nothing to play for, it shows how big the club still is and how much potential growth it has if they get things right on the pitch.
From a Telford perspective, this was my third time seeing them this season and they’ve disappointed me every time. They seem like a side that’s built to score off set-pieces, with no fluidity in their play at all. I still want them to finish in the play-offs, they’ve been in there for most of the season and deserve a spot. But I don’t think I’ll be at any more of their games until next season, where they’ll most likely be playing this fixture again.