Didcot 1-2 Hereford FC
Report by Ian East
Tuesday night saw the re-arranged league fixture take place at the Draycott Engineering Loop Meadow Stadium as already crowned league champions Hereford FC returned for a 2nd time to Oxfordshire to play Didcot Town, this time unfortunately the game being played behind closed doors due to the 1st match being abandoned late on with the Bulls in front.
Did either side really want this game? Probably not, the whole scenario is unfortunate to say the least but to be fair to both teams they put on a pretty good game of football on what was a bone hard difficult surface to play football on.
For Didcot there was 1 change from Saturday’s home win over Wimborne Town with Ollie Thomas replacing Josh Baines, although Thomas was to move to right wing back allowing Sam Barder to play in central midfield. Former Didcot player John Mills started for Hereford while another ex- Railwayman Pablo Haysham was among the substitutes.
Hereford walked out to a guard of honour from the Didcot players but that’s where the charity ended as Didcot made the ideal start to the game just 2 minutes in. The industrious Sam Barder who was outstanding all night in central midfield burst through and dinked a ball towards the Railwaymen’s top scorer Ben Whitehead who allowed the ball to drop over his right shoulder and hit a first time left foot volley that screamed into the top corner from 25 yards to open the scoring. It was a stunning goal that deserved a bigger audience than a few officials and yours truly!
Hereford started to play the better football and Rob Purdie was starting to get some joy down the right hand side for the visitors and it was his teasing cross that evaded the Didcot backline and found Jamie Molineux at the back post but his clever shot just went wide with Leigh Bedwell in the Didcot goal left rooted to the spot.
Whitehead then nearly had a double of special goals when a back pass wasn’t dealt with by Bulls keeper Martin Horsell and his rushed poor clearance only found Callum McNish for Didcot, he rolled it to Whitehead out wide on the left and with the keeper out of his goal the striker’s attempted lob landed just over the bar.
Sam Barder then broke through the midfield lines again driving towards the box he hit a low right footed shot but it didn’t have enough power to beat Horsell who saved it low to his right at the 2nd attempt.
Didcot were then made to pay for not taking 1 of these half chances as Hereford equalised right on the stroke of half time, a ball through by Dinsley looked like it had too much on it but Jake Sinclair controlled it, possibly with a bit of arm as well as chest, Bedwell saved his close range effort well but the ball fell to Molineux who made no mistake with rebound tucking it away nicely to level the scores as Didcot protested about the earlier possible use of a hand.
Into the second half and it was Hereford this time who made the perfect start when a long ball sent former Didcot striker John Mills in the clear and as Bedwell raced from his goal to dive at the strikers
feet Mills hit the deck and the referee pointed at the spot. Contact looked minimal if any and again Didcot were left to protest at the referee but to no avail. Just like the first game a somewhat soft penalty was despatched expertly by Mills and Hereford took the lead 2-1.
Didcot made changes as Ross Tanner was replaced by Louis Joyce pushing George Reid out wide so as Joyce could partner Whitehead up front as Didcot looked to salvage the game.
The game then got a bit niggly, not so much from the players but the referee seemed adamant to stop the game constantly for every little minor infringement and then had a 10-15 minute spree where every foul seemed to warrant a yellow card, a bandaged Andy Ballard was booked for dissent, Mark Preece was booked for a foul on the keeper, Mike Symons was booked for….something and Calvin Dinsley also got a card for a late-ish tackle on Reid.
In terms of chances there weren’t many, Hereford quite happy with their 2-1 lead they were pretty comfortable until 10 minutes from time when a Whitehead corner found substitute Joyce in the box but his low shot was brilliantly saved by Horsell down to his left to maintain the Bulls lead.
The full time whistle went and a bit of a sense of footballing déjà vu as Hereford had won 2-1 including a Mills penalty and thus ending this whole pretty sad saga really. A weird atmosphere watching the game with barely anyone inside the ground and hopefully not one that has to be repeated again.
Didcot’s next game is on Saturday when they travel to Larkhall Athletic.