Picture copyright www.kipax.com
Hereford United finished their 2004/2005 Conference campaign by clinching second place in the league for a second season in a row following their 0-0 draw with Accrington Stanley at Edgar Street this afternoon. With Carlisle slipping up at Brunton Park against Exeter City, the Bulls needed only a point to take second. Thus, United will face fifth place, Stevenage Borough, in the play offs.
The Bulls made two changes to the side that played on Tuesday night with Craig Stanley named in the midfield in the place of Jamie Pitman and with Danny Williams returning from injury. Brian Smikle was not included in the squad. For Accrington, David Brown started against his former club. Maybe he is regretting making the move now as it's his former and not his current club that have a chance of making it back into the Football League.
The first half reflected the importance of the game, with no real incident and both sets of players appearing to take it easy. Lee McEvily struck the first effort for the visitors over from a tight angle before Brown's shot skidded just wide of an upright from twenty five yards. Ian Craney met Ryan Green's headed clearance with a first time effort that was off target before United's first shot with around twenty minutes gone. Stansfield touched Tamika Mkandawire's long ball down for Danny Carey-Bertram but his left footed drive was easy for Danny Alcock.
Mkandawire headed a half chance wide at the far post after Mark Robinson's free kick moments prior to Carey-Bertram picking out Danny Williams at the far post but his powerful header was well saved by Alcock. Hereford had a good shout for a penalty at the end of the first half but referee Amy Rayner waved away appeals when Carey-Bertram turned his man and appeared to be tripped following the best move of the half.
Leroy Williams was introduced at half time and Stansfield was taken off, it is thought just as a precaution with the important play off clashes forthcoming. Chris Bulter was replaced moments after half time by fan's favourite Rory Prendergast. Craig Stanley had a superb chance to open the scoring but having rounded the 'keeper failed to convert from two yards out. Johnathan Smith was on the line to clear the tame effort. Two minutes later Andy Tretton had a fantastic chance but Alcock pulled off a brilliant instinctive save. Rob Purdie had won the corner following a fast break on the left and he'd crossed for Tretton to head towards goal.
The Bulls had another good appeal for a penalty turned down soon after. A mix up between Alcock and a defender led to Leroy Williams picking up the ball, before being tackled. Green collected and advanced into the area where he lifted the ball over the onrushing goalie and was tripped but the referee ignored the claims. At the other end McEvily shot wide across the face of the goal in what was a much more entertaining second period. Carey-Bertram did well to get a shot in with his back to goal but failed to trouble the 'keeper. John Coleman bought Paul Cook on for the visitors then Danny Williams fired a free kick into the arms of Alcock before United made their two final changes. Lee Mills and Jamie Pitman came on for Hyde and Carey-Bertam.
Mills got involved straight away and had two or three good efforts in his ten minutes or so on the pitch. Leroy Williams' twenty five yarder was deflected behind for a corner, taken by Robinson, which led to another penalty appeal for the home side. Claims were led by most of the Hereford players in the box as the ball appeared to come off an Accrington arm but the referee waved play on and Tretton volleyed against the legs of a defender. Purdie's corner was touched on by a defender and fell to Stanley but his week volley was caught. Mills cracked a volley from thirty yards wide before the final whistle sounded.
The match had an end of season feel to it but the two sets of fans in a crowd of 3,738, including 206 in the away end, made one of the best atmosphere's that has been heard at Edgar Street this season. It was the third highest crowd for the Bulls this campaign. However, it will probably be nothing compared to what is in store in the next two games for Hereford as they look to continue their charge back to the Football League.
HUFC Team: Mawson, Green, Tretton, Mkandawire, Robinson, Purdie, Stanley, Hyde, Danny Williams, Stansfield, Carey-Bertram. Subs: Travis, Scott, Pitman, Mills, Leroy Williams.
ASFC Team: Alcock, Howarth, Smith, Flynn, Butler, Brown, Craney , Proctor, Roberts, Mullin, McEvilly. Subs: Kennedy, Jagielka, Prendergast, Cook, Brannan.