Hereford fall off bottom of League despite win

Hereford United 3 Torquay United 2
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The Independent Online

The public address played Bowie's 'Heroes' before the kick-off, but it wasn't to be – for either side. Hereford won, but still drop out of the Football League, Torquay lost and miss out on automatic promotion. Unanimous disappointment gave Edgar Street the atmosphere of a morgue at 5 o'clock yesterday.

Barnet's victory over Burton condemned Hereford to the Blue Square Premier League and Crawley beat Accrington to deny Torquay third place in League Two and consign them to ordeal by play-off.

Hereford won three and drew two of their last six, but it was not enough. Their form throughout the season, when they lost on 22 occasions, left them with too much to do at the death.

Torquay could still get up, but form suggests otherwise. Deserved defeat here leaves them without a win in their last six matches, and Cheltenham will fancy their chances in the play-off semi-finals.

Despite the winter shortcomings which fatally undermined them, there will be widespread sympathy for Hereford, who raised their game in sterling fashion and were 3-0 up at half-time through Delroy Facey, Harry Pell and Rob Prudie. Outplayed for 45 minutes, Torquay stirred themselves after the interval for substitutes Ryan Jarvis and Taiwo Atieno to reply.

For a club that only joined the Football League in 1972, and who have never progressed beyond the second tier, Hereford are well blessed with distant admirers, if not genuine fans. The affection in which they are held dates from that fabled FA Cup run in 1971-72 when, as a non-League team, they knocked out Newcastle in a tie that propelled Ronnie Radford, Ricky George and an orgasmic "Motty" to after dinner circuit celebrity. It is largely forgotten that the following season Colin Addison's giant-killers went out of the Cup in the first round to... Torquay.

Hereford's exploits 40 years ago have enjoyed a lasting fame that has eluded some other non-league Davids to have slain Goliath, such as Sutton United, who put out the Cup holders, Coventry, in 1989.

The English Riviera club have no such place in folklore, having never climbed above the third tier. Over the past decade Torquay have ploughed a furrow between the old Conference and League Two, a single foray into League One ending in relegation. They were newsworthy briefly in 2007, when Leroy Rosenior returned as manager, only to be sacked the same day.

Yesterday's teams were wannabes and never will be. Facey, who scored the opening goal is, at 32, the ultimate journeyman after 15 transfers, having arrived at Hereford via Huddersfield, Rotherham, Notts County etc. Torquay's equivalent? How about Atieno, an itinerant striker from Kenya, whose previous nine employers include Walsall, Tamworth, Luton and Stevenage.

But while there may have been no latter day Lee Sharpes or, for those of us of a certain age, Dixie McNeils, among yesterday's combatants, the scrap they produced was edge-of-the-seat stuff from the first minute to the last, and if they can keep them, Hereford possess a sprinkling of decent players who should serve them well at the lower level. Purdie, a busily effective midfielder who was involved in all their goals, and the Peter Crouch totem-alike that is Pell deserve honourable mention among these.

And for those inclined to look on the bright side, the Blue Square is not quite the who-are-you? backwater the Conference used to be. Small consolation it may be, but Hereford will be on familiar territory at Newport, Mansfield and Grimsby.

Hereford (4-1-3-2): Bartlett; Purkiss, Townsend, Anthony, Chambers; Featherstone; Pell, Lunt (McQuilkin, 74), Purdie (Stam, 65); Colbeck (Arquin, 60), Facey.

Torquay (4-3-3): Olejnik; Oastler, Saah, Ellis, Nicholson; Mansell, Lathrope (Atieno, 46), O'Kane; Morris, Howe (Jarvis, 46), Stevens (Macdonald, 80).

Referee Roger East.

Man of the match Purdie (Hereford).

Match rating 8/10.

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