Graham Turner is evidently a man who takes his civic duties seriously. Even the local worthies who gave him the freedom of the city of Hereford, an honour most famously bestowed on Lord Nelson, could not have expected his help in sustaining a football club which is still infused by his spirit.
Loyalty isn't supposed to matter in modern football, but Turner's links to Hereford, a cash-strapped club which badly needed him to fail yesterday, are unique. He devoted 15 years of his life to it, as manager, chairman and owner. Now, as Shrewsbury manager, he was the central character in the most bitter-sweet of FA Cup stories.
Two goals by Ryan Bowman, an unheralded striker rebuilding his career after rejection by Carlisle, enabled a Conference team assailed by the prospect of administration to defeat League One opposition. Edgar Street has seen more celebrated acts of giant-killing, but none with such a personal twist.
Turner saved Hereford from extinction by becoming majority shareholder following their initial relegation to the Conference in 1997, and got them back into the Football League despite buying only two players in 11 subsequent seasons.
The Shrewsbury manager is a survivor, and a transparently decent man, who felt most keenly the ironies of a tie tinged with sadness and reminders of decline. He was dour, taciturn and admitted defeat was "devastating".
The world has been transformed in the 40 years since Ronnie Radford's goal defeated Newcastle on a pitch which consisted of glutinous mud fringed by under nourished grass. It is a bleaker, more brutal place. Just as the FA Cup has lost its resonance and relevance, time has not been kind to Hereford.
The Blackfriars end of the ground, terraced and in a state of chronic disrepair, failed a safety inspection and is only half-open. Though historically one of the best-supported non-League clubs, Hereford must readjust budgets to cope with average gates of 1,600.
The fans who survived the disillusion of last season's ejection from the Football League are a lifeline. They have donated £21,000 in the past week to help offset a £120,000 tax bill, which threatens to plunge the club into administration.
A Hallowe'en disco – "get your Ghoulies out for the Bulls" – raised the £450 required to hire a team bus for next Saturday's away game at Wrexham. Sponsored chest-waxing at Tuesday's home game will swell the fighting fund.
There have been some comic moments – the taxmen tried to serve a winding-up order on the wrong club, Dorchester Town, earlier in the week – but the mood is largely solemn and fretful. A transfer embargo has been imposed.
This is not so much the land football forgot, but the land Sky doesn't care about. Its heroes are not multi-millionaire footballers, but volunteers who scurry across the main stand, cradling black metal boxes which contain the day's takings.
Clubs like Hereford cannot exist on memories. Dreams do not pay the utility bills or players with mortgage worries. Hereford's motto – "our greatest glory lies not in never having fallen, but in rising when we fall" – has never been more appropriate.
The players were paid only because HMRC refused Hereford's offer to pay £10,000 off a £35,000 PAYE debt. The club gave them nothing, and will eke out an uncertain existence week by week.
Future attractions at Edgar Street's Starlite Room – a Meatloaf tribute act and British Sausage week – are not natural box office, so the £24,000, guaranteed for progress into the second round acquired exaggerated importance.
Hereford could not have wished for a better start. Only three minutes had elapsed when Chris Todd's header across goal was seized upon by Will Evans, who scored with a low right-footed shot into bottom corner. Shrewsbury hit the foot of the post through Marvin Morgan before Bowman announced himself with a solo goal which defied the humble nature of the surroundings. He controlled the ball just inside the Shrewsbury half, beat one man and deposited a 25-yard right-footed drive into the top left-hand corner of the net.
Bragging rights along the A49 corridor were at stake. Shrewsbury, who fielded five former Hereford players, pulled a goal back through a curling 30-yard free-kick by Kevin Summerfield, their most effective player.
But Bowman made the decisive intervention 18 minutes from time when he picked himself up, after being tripped by Lee Collins, to score with an impudent penalty. It took his manager, Martin Foyle, to put the day into perspective.
"Ah, the stresses and strains of making money," he said with a smile. "There's been a lot of doom and gloom. It's been pressure, pressure, pressure, but this is simply great."
Hereford (4-5-1): Bittner; Gallinagh, Stam, Todd, Heath; McQuilkin (Smikle, 67), Evans, O'Keefe (Graham, 87), Pell, Clucas (Clist, 90); Bowman.
Shrewsbury (4-4-2): Weale; Grandison, Collins, Jones, Purdie; Taylor, Summerfield, Hall (Wildig, 85), Helan (Proctor, 69); Morgan, Parry.
Referee Gary Sutton.
Man of the match Bowman (Hereford).
Match rating 6/10.
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