Hereford FC 0 AFC Telford United 0 - Report
In a season of recurring themes, failure to convert from the penalty spot potentially cost the Bucks three points and added to a catalogue of similar misses which could have left Kevin Wilkin’s side with a mere mountain to climb, rather than the sheer cliff face in front of them.
Montel Gibson’s unconverted penalty kick in the 81st minute meant the Bucks had to settle for a point from a match they shaded, against opponents who looked short of drive and enterprise.
Whilst a second successive goalless draw away from home contained further evidence that Wilkin is moulding the Bucks into a more organised and cohesive group, his side could not take the bull, or the Bulls, by the horns.
Jordan Piggott’s neck injury sustained in the closing stages of the 4-0 home win over Bradford (Park Avenue) on Tuesday ruled him out of contention. Jamie Allen was also unavailable through injury whilst illness likewise accounted for Luke Rowe, leaving the Bucks short on numbers. Byron Moore replaced Piggott whilst Wilkin had only three substitutes to call upon, one of which was his 39-year-old assistant manager Mark Noon.
Hereford wasn’t in such desperate need of points as their opponents; however, with lingering hopes of a play-off place still alive, more might have been expected from the Bulls.
The Bucks had the game’s first shot on goal when the Bulls half-cleared a corner but then gifted possession back to captain Robbie Evans. The home side put out that fire and another as Brendon Daniels went sprawling, and although Kai Williams got a shot away, home custodian Dino Visser was behind his effort.
Evans had a sight of goal after 5 minutes when Williams’ pace and directness unsettled the Bulls. His cross to the near post evaded a teammate’s run but fell for Evans, who tried to place the ball side-footed, but he was leaning back and cleared the crossbar.
Hereford’s Ryan McLean was both hero and villain in the match between the two sides in November. The winger, who lives in Telford, scored the Bulls’ winner but was later sent off, and he looked keen to have an impact but was marshalled well by Brad Bood. On the other wing, Miles Storey almost made something out of an opportunity created when Luke Burke gave away possession, but Burke recovered to help foil him.
Gibson had a 25-yard shot saved by Visser, low to his right, and Bucks keeper Joe Young was solidly behind Jack Holmes’ shot from 15 yards, a chance Holmes carved out by shaping to shoot and then delaying.
There was a bizarre moment in the 20th minute when Aaron Amadi-Holloway, once of Shrewsbury Town, did well to thwart Williams in the box but then struck his clearance off the legs of a teammate whose back was turned, the ball rebounding into Visser’s arms.
In the 32nd minute, Young denied Storey when the Bulls winger cut into the box from the right and went for goal, left-footed. His shot was aimed towards the nearside top corner, but Young was equal to it, conceding a corner.
Daniels responded with a free-kick from 25 yards that he aimed low around the assembled defensive wall, Visser able to catch the ball on the first bounce. The Bucks then went closer still, with probably their best chance of the half. Awarded another free-kick in a wide position, Daniels dropped the ball onto the head of Gibson, who had stolen in front of his marker. Gibson’s deft header appeared set to drop into the net over Visser, until he got fingertips onto the ball to turn it over the bar.
From the resulting corner, the Bulls cleared to ball to Bood, 25 yards out, and his low shot might have crept inside Visser’s right post had the keeper not been alert to the threat.
The Bucks were on top as the half ended, although McLean might have done better when he got past the Bucks’ defence on the left before firing wastefully over the bar to Young’s left.
That wastefulness was matched at the other end by Williams; contributing well, the forward dug the ball out from beneath his feet and those of a Bulls defender, but with only Visser to beat, his composure evaporated and he fired a shot high over the bar when he ought to have at least made Visser work.
Half Time: Hereford FC 0-0 AFC Telford United
The early stages of the second half saw fewer goal attempts from either side. Both of them won the occasional corner or attacking free-kick, but were unable to take advantage.
Hereford’s Jethro Hanson made an unconvincing attempt to win a penalty when going to the ground a little too easily in the 59th minute following a corner, and just a minute later Gibson was guilty of failing to hit the target when he worked an opening on the left of the penalty area but dragged his low effort wide in ugly fashion. It’s certainly a positive to have a striker who isn’t afraid to miss, but on occasion Gibson’s singlemindedness does come at the expense of better-placed teammates.
Gibson kept trying, seeing a shot from 25 yards blocked, as did Williams from a little closer to the goal. The Bulls were about to go closer still; when the Bucks gave away possession, the ball was moved to the left, and although it appeared the Bucks had quelled the move, Levi Andoh looked almost casual in bending a shot across Young and off the far post to safety.
The Bucks’ set-piece deliveries yielded little all afternoon, and Visser had little trouble claiming a Daniels ball into the box from a good position. Evans went closer from open play in the 74th minute when Burke kept the ball in play despite Andoh’s attempts to play the ball off him for a throw-in. Burke’s ball forwards wasn’t controlled by Williams but fell to the Bucks captain, but his head in his hands seconds later told the story of another shot off-target.
Both sides made substitutions, trying to bring about a change in what looked like an inexorable trudge towards a goalless draw.
In the 79th minute, Young denied Ryan Lloyd with a fairly routine save from his shot inside the penalty area, but the afternoon’s pivotal moment was about to arrive.
The Bucks were tapping at the Bulls’ door rather than announcing themselves loudly, but opportunity knocked when Lewis Salmon, who had replaced Bood, darted into the penalty area; an injudiciously made tackle sent Salmon flying, barely a few feet inside the line, but that was enough for referee Dale Wootton to award a penalty.
Both Daniels and Gibson have missed penalties in recent matches, although Gibson did score from his own rebound against Bradford; on this occasion, he wasn’t to have a shot at redemption. After a longish wait, Gibson shaped to take the kick and Visser read his move. Gibson went to his right, but only just, and Visser had only to drop to the floor to make the save, even managing to hold the ball.
The gift horse almost bit back straight away, as the Bulls responded swiftly with an attack of their own. Moving the ball into the penalty area from the left, they located McLean, but his stab at the ball only succeeded in poking it wide.
There were moments for either side as the game headed towards its conclusion. Andoh sailed a shot too high to trouble Young from 25 yards and then, from a free-kick on the right, the Bucks returned a half-clearance into the box and defender Harry Flowers swivelled but volleyed a half-chance too high to find the net.
The grey, rainy skies above Edgar Street summed up the mood. The Bucks aren’t going out with a whimper, but neither are they going out with a bang; however, that they are going out seems increasingly certain with each passing week.
Referee: Dale Wootton.
Assistants: Kieran Forrest, Thomas Durno.
Attendance: 1,821 (144 from Telford).
Telford: (4-4-2) Young, Burke, Bood (Salmon 75), Cameron, Flowers, Evans (c), Piggott, Ekpolo, Daniels (Livingstone 85), Williams, Gibson.
Subs not used: Noon.
Hereford FC: Visser, Hodgkiss (c), Thompson-Summers (Jarvis 45), Amadi-Holloway, Egan, Lloyd (Pinchard 85), Hanson, Holmes (Barnett 74), Andoh, Storey, McLean.
Subs not used: Lilly, Osment.
Cautioned: Amadi-Holloway, Storer.