Walsall Wood fight hard but Hereford win proves elusive

grounds

Hereford FC’s Edgar Street ground. Image from the club’s website.

It was a big match in prospect last Tuesday (5th April 2016) – Walsall Wood away to Hereford, and the football didn’t disappoint, even if the result did a little; but the Woodmen battled the home team fiercely and came away with their heads held high.

This match saw the welcome return of Bill Shaw to reporting duties which was fortunate, and neither David nor Simon Evans could make the match. Whilst the Evans lads do an excellent job, it really is good to see Bill well enough to be back in the saddle – and I’m sure you’ll all join with me in wishing him well, and thanking him for what is a great report of what appears to have been match of the season.

Bill Shaw  submitted the following match report:

Hiya Bob,

Good to be back, for one game at least. The match was an enthralling battle between two superb footballing sides, and the half time score of one all was a fair reflection of the first 45 minutes. Hereford dominated the second half and thoroughly deserved the win, credit must go to the Wood who defended superbly, but even so the margin would have been wider but for the outstanding performance of Wood keeper Andy Hughes who pulled off a string of world class saves, one as he admitted afterwards he knew nothing about as it just hit him in the face. The teams are favourites to meet in the League Cup Final, if they do it will be a game not to be missed.

The hospitality was superb, as was the welcome, but who’s ever heard of curried carrot soup that was available in the boardroom at the break? Oh how the other half lives, just as well Chairman Justin wasn’t there to get any fanciful ideas.

Thanks to everyone for the messages of support, it’s great to be back, but it’s still early days yet, I’m trying to stay sensible but it’s hard to break the habit of a lifetime.

Hereford 2 v 1 Walsall Wood

Wood left Edgar Street pointless but with their heads held high after a pulsating encounter in front of 2,520 noisy fans had seen them go down by the odd goal in three.

Wood had the better of the early exchanges until on six minutes Mustapha Bundu picked the ball up wide left before going on a mazy crossfield run that ended with his through ball into the right of the box just too long for Sildic Grant. Four minutes later it was Pablo Haysham running at the Wood defence from right of centre, he released Grant into the box, Ben Birch saving Wood with an incredible challenge. Twelve minutes gone and a flowing right to left move across the face of the Wood box set up Bundu to fire a rising drive just too high. Four minutes later Grant worked his way inside from wide right, his shot on the run charged down by quickly back pedalling Wood defenders.

Having weathered the storm Wood nearly went ahead on 18 minutes, the impressive Ricardo Ricketts robbed Hereford skipper Joel Edwards on halfway and found Dan Griffiths who seeing keeper Martin Horsell off his line tried a 30 yard lob that landed on the roof of the net with the custodian beaten.

Then on 20 minutes Wood keeper Andy Hughes made the first of several superb saves, as he somehow kept out Bundu’s free kick from the left of the box. From the left wing well worked corner the ball was crossed for Haysham whose first time effort was blocked but he followed up to bury the rebound to put the Bulls ahead.

Wood’s reply was almost immediate, the magic feet of Lewis Taylor Boyce taking him through three challenges and into the right of the box, Horsell saving bravely at his feet. A minute later it was Corey Currithers wide left running at the home defence, somehow keeping control of the ball as it bobbled all over the place, his neat ball inside gave Griffiths a shooting chance, his first time low drive bringing a full length save. A minute later Birch won the ball in the centre circle before finding Joey Butlin, his first time effort from 35 yards easily held by Horsell. A quiet few minutes followed until on 32 Ricketts found Louis Harris on the right of the box, his reverse pass gave Harry Harris the chance to cross to the far post, Lee Hildreth ghosting in to head into the grateful arms of the keeper.

Back came the Bulls, Jimmy Oates breaking up a Wood attack and racing forward, his cross into the centre of the box saw Birch under intense pressure from Haysham power a header into the right hand top corner of his own net, Hughes sparing his blushes with a superb touch over. Three corners in quick succession saw Wood living dangerously but they held out.

Then on 39 minutes an overhit left wing cross was chased down wide right by Taylor Boyce, he raced to the byeline, Horsell flapped at and missed his far post cross and Louis Harris gleefully planted an equalising header into the net. Wood ended the half on top, on 44 minutes a lovely flowing one touch move down the Wood right involving Griffiths, who fed Louis Harris, his ball inside to Butlin was touched on to Griffiths whose first time low drive was deflected inches wide of the left hand post. From the corner the ball was hit by a defender, ricocheted off a Wood player but straight into the grateful arms of Horsell.

The Bulls put Wood under pressure from the start of the second half, on 52 minutes Bundu played the ball into the box for Haysham to hit first time, Hughes with another great save. Three corners in quick succession followed with brave defending seeing shots charged down. Three minutes later a lovely move down the left saw the ball played into Haysham to lay the ball back to Rob Purdie to flash a first time effort inches wide. Four minutes later Grant raced through three tackles into the right of the box, only to finish weakly under pressure from Grant Beckett. What proved to be the winning goal came on 61 minutes, Grant finding Aaron Birch in the D, his clever ball left to Haysham was driven low into the net. Seven minutes later Grant raced into the box, he was stopped by a superb tackle from Beckett, the ball falling to Birch to hit first time, Hughes with another great save. Hereford kept up the pressure with Grant twice denied by Hughes with two more brilliant saves. Oates put a header wide on 79 minutes but couldn’t believe his eyes on 89 minutes when Grant laid the ball back into his path and his first time low drive was somehow kept out by Hughes at the foot of his right hand post.

The partisan crowd had their money’s worth, Wood well worth parity at half time but they had a real working over in the second half as Champions elect Bulls threatened to run riot, but groundskeeper Any Hughes turned in a goalkeeping master class to keep Wood in the game.

It’s Rocester away next for Wood before on Thursday 14th April they visit Lye Town in the first leg of the league cup semi-final.

Bill Shaw.

The Teams:

Hereford: Horsell, Oates, Edwards (c), Purdie, Green, Summers, Bundu, Birch, Grant, Haysham, Symons, Laird, Bowen, Bonella, Tomelty, Mills.

Walsall Wood: Hughes, Ricketts, Beckett, Birch, Hildred, L. Harris, Griffiths, H. Harris (c), Butlin, Taylor Boyce, Currithers, Wright, Juxon, Black, Evans, Jackson.

Bad luck lads – keep pushing. My commiserations, but you fought hard and did Walsall Wood proud.

Thanks to Bill for the report, as ever.It’s a joy and an honour to publish them here.

For The Good of the Wood!

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