I visited Hereford for the second week running, as a local team of mine (Worcester Raiders) were playing the runaway leaders, Hereford Lads Club who have won all their 15 league games so far. I read in the Worcester News this morning that the Raiders Chairman, Kevin Jenkins, says the team are confident of a win today and will be bringing a coach load of supporters too!
It's a grey and drizzly day but with the promise of better weather, further west. I travel to Hereford OK on the train and after getting some lunch and a wander round the city centre, get to the ground just before kick-off at 2pm. Lads Club's ground is also the ground for the County FA and is situated very close to Westfield's Allpay Park, who are playing in the FA Vase today.
Lads Club are playing in a royal blue kit and Raiders are decked out in an all dark blue strip.
Lads Club go close after 10 minutes when their No.9 hits the bar with a header and in the early stages dominate the play. The Raiders defence is standing up well to the home sides lively attack and have certainly improved a lot from when I saw them in action in a pre-season friendly in July.
The Raiders threaten after 25 minutes when they have a shot on the right turned round for a corner and then take the lead when Martin Newman pounces to score from close range, eight minutes later.
Soon after Raiders forward, Richard Smith has a shot blocked by keeper Steve Bell and are well on top now. Their No.4 also shoots across Lads Club's goal but the league leaders do threaten in the last minute with a glancing header that just goes wide.
It's been a very lively and competitive 45 minutes and difficult to predict the outcome. I have talked to the photographer from the Hereford Times newspaper, Colin Maggs a bit and he is off now to the Westfields match. We both agree that the conditions today are making good quality photos difficult to take, with it drizzling when it was supposed to keep dry this afternoon.
When play resumes it only takes 2 minutes for the visitors to extend their lead with their No.9, Nick MacPherson, shooting home after some good approach play on the right.
A few minutes later and things take a turn for the worse for the hosts when their No.11 is sent off for dissent apparently. This enables the Raiders to take control of the match and they look dangerous whenever they attack. In the 71st minute, the Lads Club keeper makes 2 very good saves in quick succession (shown below saving from striker Richard Smith).
The result is wrapped up by No.10, Richard Smith, when he beats a defender to the ball and then takes it round keeper Steve Bell before shooting in to the net from a tight angle (shown below taking congratulations from team mates).
A few minutes later and confusion reigns for a while when a Lads Club player goes back on to the pitch before be allowed to do so by the referee. The player is booked and then sent-off after swearing at the ref.
Richard Smith then heads wide a good chance from a corner.
There is a bit more drama near the end of the game when the Lads Club No.5 and manager, Danny Moon, moans at the linesman near me, something like, 'It's bad enough having just 9 players without having just ONE linesman!' He then moans some more at the official and then a Raiders fan who is stood nearby directs a comment to Mr.Moon saying that he's lucky to still be on the pitch. This results in expletives being directed at the fan and then the ref decides he's had enough and duly books the Lads Club manager.
I come across the Worcester Raiders secretary, George MacPherson, when I wander to the club house side of the pitch. He tells me that the club had indeed hired a coach but had been delayed a while in the traffic. This explains why it looked as though there were only about 30 spectators at the match when I arrived.
The game ends soon after and the Worcester Raiders players are understandably elated.They have put in a great performance and I was particularly impressed by their defence. They have several games in hand on the teams above them and look to be good for a top 4 finish at least.
Lads Club definitely have some quality players in their side and it will be difficult for any other team even at this stage of the season to overhaul them, although Worcester Raiders who have 6 games in hand will give it a go I'm sure.
Match attendance: approx 80
Match entrance fee: £3
Match programme: none available
Match entertainment value: 8/10