Sunday, March 27, 2011
PLUS CA CHANGE: BULLS WIN AT HOME
It seemed a perfectly reasonable excuse to miss this season’s opener, sitting with a bottle of wine in a French square, and your correspondent was soon able to discover, with a quick text to Paulo, that we had defeated the might of Crewe Alexandra by a solitary header from new skipper Janos Kovacs. What seems like an eternity later, much has changed with Mr Kovacs out of favour, ex-physio Jamie Pitman continuing at the helm, and loan signings galore featuring in the intervening period. Today’s result, however, remains the same, with a Stuart Fleetwood strike proving the difference between the sides, thus securing a double for the Bulls and moving them further from the relegation trapdoor. With the clocks advanced, play began as the home side’s backup squad once more occupied what had previously been the visitors’ dugout. Jimmy McQuilkin and Steve Leslie combined to good effect in an early raid, and then a dangerous cross from Joe Colbeck was sliced horribly over his own bar by one of the two Ashley Westwoods fielded by Crewe. A promising move by the visitors was cut short when a foul was called, though Hereford could be considered fortunate that the advantage rule was not applied. Adam Bartlett made a fine double save after a break by the speedy Shaun Miller at the expense of a corner, and then Colbeck was guilty of giving the ball away cheaply, though to his credit, he was quick to rectify the situation. Midfield partner Nicky Featherstone, who had played some intelligent balls forward, then also lost possession before making a retrieving tackle. Leslie then showed his prowess with a couple of crosses which could not quite find a Hereford head. One quarter of the game had gone when the goal arrived. Stuart Fleetwood chased what seemed a lost cause, and induced panic and hesitancy in the Crewe rearguard. Our hero stabbed the ball goalwards, and a deflection wrong-footed Steve Phillips who could only turn to watch as the ball trickled over the goal line.
Fleetwood celebrating after scoring his 16th of the season - Pictures taken by Andy Compton from the Hereford Journal
In an attempt to secure an instant response, Clayton Donaldson, adept as always at finding space and holding the ball up, created a couple of chances, one of which drew a smart save from Bartlett, whilst the other, following a rapidly taken free kick, saw him shoot wide. Colbeck played a terrific pass to Ryan Green on the overlap, and in turn he found McQuilkin who won a corner, but the flag kick was wasted. At the other end, a long range raking shot from Dan Shelley was palmed to safety by a diving Bartlett. Then, in the last meaningful action of the half, Fleetwood once more picked the pocket of a defender, Patrick Ada on this occasion, to feed McQuilkin, but he rather ran down a cul-de-sac and the chance had gone.
HT: HUFC 1 CREWE ALEXANDRA 0
Donaldson popped up on the right wing and somehow managed to get in a cross, despite being closely marked, and Miller at the near post almost forced the ball home, with Bartlett once more alert to the danger and getting a vital touch to preserve the Bulls’ lead. Fleetwood, Colbeck and Featherstone were showing a solid understanding and managed to win a few corners, but the visitors’ defence were not unduly troubled. Green pushed forward, almost managing to get on to the end of an imaginative back flick from little Jimmy, though he was fortunate not to concede a free kick for an overzealous challenge moments later. Retribution followed immediately as the Welshman was unceremoniously taken out with an ugly challenge, though Mr Sutton did not penalise this either. The other Westwood, the veteran midfielder, then fashioned a couple of chances, but was off target. Michael Townsend, who has faced some criticism after recent games, looked much more confident in his partnership with the calm, assured Stefan (no relation) Stam, as the home defence dealt well with what little Crewe could throw at them.
Stam getting a hand from Crewe's Joel Grant
As the minutes ticked by, Hereford became less of an attacking threat and resorted to some unwelcome and unproductive “hoofery”. Substitutions for both sides made little impact, with Byron Moore joining his team-mate Shelley but failing to provide the expected poetry for the away side. United fans, rather surprisingly, were not given a look at new loanee Jason Price, other than to admire his lustrous hair during the interval. Rumours that, had he appeared, Mr Keyte would have had to include him as a “visitor” on today’s census form, and that there was insufficient space, can be neither confirmed nor denied. On Tuesday, Bulls fans listening to the proceedings at Port Vale on the wireless knew what would happen when the commentator said that we only had to hold on for the four added minutes. There was some foreboding when, once more, four extra minutes were announced, and Hereford conceded an unnecessary free kick in the third of these. This time, however, the ball was lumped aimlessly into the box and a vital win was secured.
FT HUFC 1 CREWE ALEXANDRA 0 Attendance: 2334, including 229 from Gresty Road.
HUFC: Bartlett, Green, Townsend, Stam, Heath, McQuilkin, Lunt, Featherstone, Colbeck (Purdie 85), Leslie, Fleetwood (Fairhurst 79).
CREWE ALEX.: Phillips, Blanchett, Artell, Ada (Tootle 62), Shelley (Grant 59), A M Westwood, A Westwood, Murphy, Bell, Donaldson, Miller (Moore 82).