Unfortunately the much-anticipated game against Chester was called off on Tuesday morning with frost and freezing fog enveloping Edgar Street. However, with another home game scheduled for the weekend it is hoped the Bulls can continue with their current upturn in form. Simon Wright previews the visit of Banbury United.
Our opponents Banbury are yet another club who make a profit, are happy to share detailed financial information with everyone and are above Hereford in the League. The Puritans made £49,000 profit in 2021 and £40,000 profit a year after. How much profit did their single club bar make? £64,000. What was the player and staff wage bill? £279,000. That’s genuinely open and transparent data from this 100% supporter-owned outfit. Of course, all the data above refers to Step 3 so the next set of accounts will reveal how well they’ve coped with the stresses and strains of National League North. They are in nose-bleed territory, the highest level the club have reached.
Without dwelling on specifics, fair to say that most travelling Hereford supporters have a low opinion of Banbury. Been there twice and seen stuff twice that belongs back in the 1980s. I’m not going to be puritanical. I was fortunate to be in and around the media area for both matches and the perspective was very different. I could and did have a beer in their bar this season and everyone I met were friendly and happy to swap stories about the two clubs. I’m sure they were the sensible majority. At the start of the season, the Puritans were attracting attendance so large by their standards, they struggled to manage them. Now the team has stopped winning every week, attendances have dropped significantly, hopefully including the unpleasant element.
Away from home, Banbury’s results are up and down, probably related to their welter of injuries. They have returned from their first 13 trips with only 12 points which really isn’t play-off form. They won at Darlington, Buxton and Boston, all clubs with a poor home record. Conversely, they’ve been beaten by Farsley Celtic, Telford and were recently whopped 5-0 by Fylde. “Men against boys. Miles off it” sighed the Banbury gaffer. Their travelling arrangements are unique, running a double decker coach to every game. The team is on one deck, the supporters on the other. Sounds a clever plan though double-deckers are very slow vehicles and every route has to be double checked to avoid low bridges.
Captain Giorgio Rasulo is their top scorer with 9 goals. The midfielder was actually born in Banbury to an Italian father. He learned his trade in the Franchise academy and joined the Puritans back in 2018. A veteran!
There are a couple of familiar names in their squad. Firstly wing-back Jak Hickman. The Bulls were one of his 10 former clubs and he’s only 24. And thinking of well-travelled, Mr Loyalty is in town. Hello Jaanai Derece Gordon-Hutton (his full name). If only we could have played Banbury sooner, he’d have made a cracking pantomime villain.
Now 27 and passing through his 17th club though it’s hard to keep up. Less than a year since he left us and he’s already with his third new team. Curiously, this is his third spell with Banbury, Jaanai is not exactly a regular scorer. Apart from one season where he found the net 13 times, his best seasonal total is 5. Technically, he’s on loan from Boston but as the Lincolnshire club have signed a new forward since, don’t think he’s going back any time soon. There is one more connection, their Gaffer brummie Andy Whing is a former Edgar Street coach.
Always pleasing to welcome a new-ish club to Edgar Street. Certain outfits have definitely overstayed their welcome through familiarity. It’s only the 4th League game and six matches in all between the clubs with the replayed FA Trophy fixture way back when in 1970/71. Their previous visit was in January 2018 in the Southern League Premier. Hereford won 3-0 with goals from Jamie Bird, a penalty from “Johnny, Johnny Mills” and Keyon Reffell. Feels like ancient history though its almost exactly five years ago. The Banbury keeper Jack Harding that day is still their goalkeeper having played over 300 games for his club.
Happily, the Puritans’ pest of a striker Morgan Roberts who scored twice against us back in August was snapped up by Swindon the day after so he’s out the way. Edgar Street clubs have a 100% record against the Puritans. Let’s keep it that way.