Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Hereford cement play off finish

Hereford United guaranteed themselves a top three finish with a draw at Kingfield last night, which further dented Woking's chances of making the play offs although they do still have a chance. A draw was probably a fair reflection of the game however, United will be dissatisfied with the way they conceded the win late on.

Graham Turner made a triple change to the side that began Saturday's victory at Halifax. Danny Williams, injured against the Shaymen, was withdrawn from the squad and the services of Brian Smikle were called upon and he went straight into the first eleven. Craig Stanley was named on the bench for the first time as a Hereford United player as, it is thought, a precaution to rest his groin injury. Jamie Pitman, who was rested with his troublesome shoulder injury last weekend, was recalled in his place. The other change was in the attack; Danny Carey-Bertram was preferred to the more physical approach of Lee Mills.

When the game finally go underway following a ten minute delay due to the late flood of travelling fans, the hosts began well throwing, as expected, everything they had at Hereford to enhance their promotion chances. They failed to create anything clear cut and it was the Bulls who went close firstly. Rob Purdie, who caused problems down the left all night, dinked a ball over to Adam Stansfield and put in a difficult cross. Goalkeeper Adriano Basso hesitated before getting a late touch on the ball and Jon Boardman cleared. Stansfield had an even better chance soon after; Robinson delivered a free kick onto the chest of Tamika Mkandawire who drilled the ball back across goal but Stansfield managed to lift the ball over the bar from six yards.

Man of the match Purdie was felled as he set off on another run resulting in a yellow card for Karl Murray, who bought him down on the left. The free kick was half cleared to Hyde, who chipped a ball into the box but Andy Tretton headed off target. Robinson's good set plays continued and he almost netted from a tight angle, but the ball flashed wide of the far post with Carey-Bertram lurking. A rare poor pass by Mkandawire out of the defence present Chris Sharpling with a good chance, after Ian Selley's cross, but he volleyed over.

Hyde, instrumental in the middle for the Bulls, filed a good ball into the feet of Carey-Bertram who turned his man before firing in a low effort, which was met by a good save. This turned out to be one of Bassano's last incidents as he was replaced on the stroke of half time because of injury. Shwan Jalal stepped in for him. Before the half was out Neil Smith was carded.

Woking almost took the lead moments after the restart when Raphael Nade had his deflected shot turned around the post by Craig Mawson. Carey-Bertram replied at the other end with an effort from twenty yards, which flew into the arms of Jalal although it took a deflection on its way to goal. Robinson's corner was met by Mkandawire's head but he was denied by a goal line clearance by Stephen Evans. Smith was replaced by Simon Jackson for the Cards as they looked to get some reward for their possession but they still created little, Murray's thirty yard volley went wide before Carey-Bertram found space to cross from the left but his strike partner's header was wide of the mark.

Hyde found the run of Carey-Bertram with a superbly timed through ball into the area and the youngster went down under the challenge of Boardman but the referee signalled for a corner. Tretton got his head to the corner but it seemed to hit the arm of a defender but again the ref gave another corner. Moments later Woking took a quick free kick which was taken down by Nade, who skinned Tretton before cutting back to the far post but Pitman was there to hook clear. Hereford's first change came with fifteen minutes left, Simon Travis took Smikle's place at the same time of Woking's introduction of Amos Foyewa.

Evans shot on the turn after a small scramble on the edge of the Hereford box was luckily straight at Mawson moment before the deadlock was broken, with just eight minutes remaining. At the other end Hyde spread the ball to the left for Stansfield, who delivered a perfect cross for Carey-Bertram and he volleyed in from eight yards much to the delight of the 457 away fans who knew now that their side would surely be in the play offs again.

Carey-Bertram was taken off with five minutes left and Leroy Williams took his place but then the Bulls found themselves pegged back on level terms once again. Tretton, who'd been solid alongside Mkandawire, turned a cross behind for a corner but Boarman flew in at the far post to head home Selley's cross, sending the home fans in the crowd of 3,298.

As Carlisle conceded late on as well at Barnet, it means that United remain in third place, which is guaranteed for them now. They are still level on point with Carlisle, meaning they can steel second place from them on the last day. Many at Woking commented that the Bulls played some of the best football they'd seen this season although some of the Hereford fans will argue that they were not at their best. Woking can still make the play offs but they have a tough task on the last day as they hope other results go their way as well as beating Halifax at The Shay.

HUFC Team: Mawson, Green, Tretton, Mkandawire, Robinson, Smikle, Pitman, Hyde, Purdie, Carey-Bertram, Stansfield. Subs: Travis, Stanley, Scott, Mills, L Williams.

WFC: Basso, Smith, Boardman, MacDonald, Evans, Murray, Selley, Sharpling, Oliver, Nade, Richards. Subs: Gosling, Jalal, Jackson, Foyewa, Louis.