Football: Hapless Hereford

Hereford 1 Welling 2
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The Independent Online
"We Are going into the unknown," Hereford United's manager, Graham Turner, had said last week as his team contemplated a season in the Vauxhall Conference after finishing bottom of the Football League last May.

Well now he and his players know they are in for a long hard slog after losing this first game to Welling United, a team who, to give the result some perspective, finished fifth from bottom of the Conference last season. Their victory was no fluke either, Welling being far more determined than their opponents.

Hereford are hoping that they can do what Darlington and Lincoln City have done in the past, in climbing back out of the grave before the diggers had time to pour on the soil. But Hereford's quick return to League status is by no means guaranteed.

Hereford have hung on to their full-time professional squad, albeit reduced in numbers, while Turner, who offered his resignation after that fateful draw against Brighton, has been persuaded to stay on with the slightly inflated title of director of football. Turner's management experience with Wolves and Aston Villa had been seen as a vital advantage to Hereford, who were installed as 7-1 fourth favourites to win the Conference. Those odds would have lengthened like the evening shadows after this game.

Hereford's gush of optimism for a good start to their Conference campaign lasted just four minutes by which time they were already a goal down. Welling's big central defender Paul Copley was left unmarked from Barry Lakin's corner to head past Andy de Bont in the Hereford goal.

The home crowd's patience, carefully nurtured over the summer break, seemed to dissolve fairly quickly, almost as quickly as Hereford's confidence. Inside the half hour they were two down, courtesy of more poor football at a setpiece.

Tyrone King's free-kick was too much for de Bont, who could only fumble the ball on, allowing Mark Cooper a stooping header into an unguarded net.

Hereford were understandably more energetic in the second half, having no doubt been reminded of their full-time professional status. And it was the old pro Tony Agana who brought the home team back into the game, driving home a shot off a defender after Welling had failed to clear a free-kick.

But the better chances were all Welling's, particularly for the substitute Colin Simpson, who might easily have had two goals. By the end the Tannoy's invitation to book seats on the coach trip for Monday's game to Hednesford Town were being greeted with loud cheers.