After yesterday’s excellent 2-0 victory at the Brewery Field against Spennymoor, Hereford now take on another promotion seeking side in the shape of Stockport County on Saturday, 6 April in front of, what could be, the Bulls largest home crowd of the season. Here is the Talking Bull fanzine pre-match preview…
Our visitors will be well supported at the Street, possibly the largest away support seen at Edgar Street for Hereford FC? An expectant, probably desperate support, weary of 5 years in the National League North and no doubt moaning they are too big for this League.
Whatever your criteria may be, there’s no argument that Stockport County are bigger than any Hereford club so they are living proof that getting out of this League – upwards – is hard work and requires patience. This is the lowest League in which Stockport County have played since 1905. Just pause and think about the significance of that fact. That’s a bit like an Edgar Street club being in the Midland League in 60 months with each near miss increasing the frustration.
County are the nearly-men of the League. In 2016-17, they nearly made the Play-Offs but missed them by one point. Last season, they nearly got to the FA Trophy Final but lost the Semi-Final. And then went out of the Play-Offs at the first hurdle. This season, they nearly got to Wembley again but once more lost in the Semis. Understandably, they are mad keen to avoid the play-offs. I do wonder whether that amount of pressure, expectation and losing the Trophy Semi-Final to Fylde in the 89th minute will be counter-productive. Not to mention playing a lot of games in a short time frame. In a fortnight’s time, they play Chorley and that could be decisive. Maybe Edgar Street could be a game too far. That’s where Hereford might have some hope of a positive result. Here’s a recent quote from the Stockport manager “I don’t think we’ve been at our best for a while, no-one’s at their maximum, maybe it’s tiredness or mental fatigue and we need to work through that.”
Form of course points to a victory for our visitors. So far, County have won 9 of their 17 away games. Since November last year, they’ve only lost one away game in League or Cup – to Brackley which feels ominous. If the game is close, tensions will rise on the pitch and off it. I am concerned that for bigger fixtures like this, the idiot element turns up and that applies equally to both sides. There are I understand Police precautions in place to minimise difficulties.
Financially, Stockport County are propped up by 3 shareholders who donate money regularly to keep the financial Dingle from the door. Their last published accounts show a deficit of £800,000 and this for a club who have a £1 million turnover. This is something of an improvement from previous years when they came very close to closing down. With their average gate up by several hundred to 3,700 and the revenue from Cup runs, the deficit could be greatly cut, assuming they haven’t spent the extra revenue on chasing promotion.
Stockport got off to an average start and were strictly mid-table after ten games. Our 1-1 draw at Edgeley Park fell into that period. Since then, they’ve been formidable and went 16 matches without defeat until Brackley beat them 1-0.
The Hatters are “almost” full-time. The majority of their squad doesn’t have another job and they train 3 times a week. They are also proud of growing their own talent with several members of the Academy in their first team squad. Some part-timers do remain such as goalkeeper Ben Hinchliffe who is a lorry driver and club captain Ash Palmer who teaches.
Another of their part-timers is 34 -year-old Matty Warburton. He scored 21 goals last season and is close to the same total this season with 16 so far. He was the League Player of the Month in January. In fact, he’s scored double figure goals at this level in each of the last 4 seasons. He was previously with Curzon. Stockport predictably have him on contract and offered him full-time terms but being 34 and a teacher, he opted to stay part-time. Striker Frank Mulhearn is second top scorer with ten goals. County are the second lowest scorers in the top seven but have the meanest defence.
Manager Jim Gannon describes himself as a “Working Class Irish Catholic” even though he was born in London. He’s in his third spell as County manager, following ten years as a player when County reached the Championship and stayed there for five seasons. He played 469 games for the Hatters, and now has slightly more games as their manager. This guy is Stockport, and being 6 foot 2 and known to be argumentative, no-one will dare say otherwise. Jimbo is cautious about the club turning fully full-time, not least because his previous two spells at the club ended when Stockie ran out of money. Gannon points out that a genuine full-time player has a 52-week contract. That’s food for thought at Edgar Street too.
Talking Bull will – finally – be on sale for this game. We had some technical problems earlier which are now resolved. We have a genuine mindreader among our contributors this time so we continue to be different in our role as a critical friend. Usual £3 from the rabid selling team.