Hereford secured their fourth win in a row at Leamington last night and moved up into the play-off places in the Vanarama National League North for the first time. However, Russell Slade must now turn his attention to the FA Cup and a tie at the Lamb Ground as the Bulls look to make progress past Tamworth.
Simon Wright has been casting his eye over our cup opponents to bring you this Talking Bull preview.
After the surprise of dodging the Southern half of the FA Cup draw, a tie at a lower-Division side with decent facilities a mere 80 miles away, feels like a reasonable outcome. There were some better outcomes but equally we dodged many more undesirable opponents beyond the boundaries of the flat earth society.
We came across Tamworth’s top goalscorer recently. Though unfortunately for the Lambs, 23 goal man from last season Chris Lait, is now with AFC Telford. Also Chester powerhouse Akwasi Asante, who barged through our back four on August Bank Holiday, played half of last season with the Lambs. Reece Styche and Kyle Finn are both ex-Tamworth. Styche had 3 spells with the Lambs, scoring 19 times. Not forgetting our own Tim Harris, whose previous gig was with the Staffordshire club. Departing talent has been a trend for the Lambs in recent years as they’ve sunk considerably from the days when they battled with Hereford United in Step One. A lIttle Bit of History Truthfully, so have we but Hereford looks more likely to regain their status.
Tim Harris is one of 5 Tamworth managers in the last two years though admittedly his reign lasted just a single game. A game which his side won, therefore giving him a 100% success rate. Conversely, Rob Purdie also had one game as caretaker Shepherd back in 2014, but his team lost 1-0.
The latest incumbents, Andrew “unproduceable surname” Danylyszyn and Gary Smith, were given temporary charge in January this year. After a sequence of wins which moved Tamworth away from relegation concerns, they became permanent in March. Smith’s cousin is former beanpole Bluenose Kevin Francis. Being Birmingham-born, Smith is obviously eligible for Saint Kitts and St Nevis. He gained 10 caps for his “country”15 years ago. He was a player for Tamworth back then and the Lambs were thrilled to have their first international player. The novelty soon wears off. Andrew, as he is solely known on their website, is a UEFA A Licenced Qualified coach and has a sports degree. His playing career was modest,, confined to FC Cavaliers in Nottingham. Andrew’s coaching career though has real pedigree as he coached at the famous WBA Academy in recent years.
Smith and Andrew manage a squad of Step 3 players with impressive pedigrees. I will just highlight a few:
Striker Lathaniel Rowe-Turner played 30 times for the Kettering Town Championship team last season. But only scored once. His team mate Rhys Hoenes moved with him. He was the Poppies top scorer with 23 last season. Goalkeeper Jas Singh was in formidable form for Solihull, Gloucester and Telford in Step 2 in recent years. Quite a coup for the Lambs to sign him. James Frywas Captain of Stratford Town for the last 3 seasons. His middle name is Engelbretzen. Oh dear.
Tamworth are riding high in the Southern League Premier Division Central. They are unbeaten away in both League and Cup but, encouragingly for us, have lost home League games to both Bromsgrove Sporting and Hednesford. So much for the home advantage that a 4G pitch is supposed to add. Just to add the Lambs installed their carpet 3 years ago so this modern surface is nothing like Sutton’s which we endured twice in our Step 3 season. Tamworth have used the same design as St George’s. Interestingly, the Lamb pitch no longer slopes as the area was levelled when the new design was installed. The club claims the artificial surface is used by 3,000 people every week. The revenue generated will help reduce Tamworth’s overdraft, which was running at six figures on their last published accounts.
Tamworth’s biggest home gate in 19/20 was 1,047 for the visit of near neighbours Nuneaton Borough in an earlier round of the FA Cup. They beat Borough and went on to beat Step 4 opponents Loughborough Dynamo 3-0 in the Second Qualifying Round, with the aid of two penalties. Scoring twice from the spot can make a big difference in the Cup. The winners of this Third Qualifying Round tie will pick up over £11,000. A decent incentive for both sides so there will be holding back.
Our last visit was in April 2014 thus most Bulls supporters will remember the layout. Segregation will surely be enforced so our standing supporters will be on the partly covered Meadow End behind one goal (OK, strictly this is the Meadow Street End but why spoil a good line?). There is room for 850 here. The turnstiles are shared with the Main Stand so if you need a seat, tell the operator who will stamp your ticket once you’ve paid the supplement. Admission charges are quite high for Step 3 with terraces £12 adults, £8 concessions plus lower rates for kids. Add £2 each for main stand seats.
There is a big car park right next to the ground. Expect a small parking fee and a lively scramble to leave afterwards. Early arrivals get best position on the starting grid.
Tamworth is a refreshment desert. Segregation prevents us entering the clubhouse and there are no pubs nearby. Shockingly, the local Wetherspoons, the Bole Bridge, bans all football colours and is home supporters only. Never come across that before anywhere.
So, for the determined supporters only, there are 3 CAMRA-listed alternatives some 15 minutes walk from the ground. Recommended is a Joules house, the Market Vaults on Market Street (B79 7LU). Or the Sir Robert Peel pub on Lower Gungate (B79 7BA). The Peel is CAMRA-listed for 16 straight years. They offer 5 real ales, 4 real ciders ands lots of bottled beers. This is a small pub with a beer garden. Talking of small, also in the same street as the “Peel”, is the King’s Ditch micropub. There is a fine choice here of 6 beers and 30+ ciders to choose from. The non-drinkers may want to check out the Deanery café in Lower Gungate (B79 7BA) which garners glowing reviews for the quality of its food.
By Road: 158 miles return (B77 1AA). Leave M42 at J10 and follow signs to the Snowdome (which overlooks the ground). By Train: Tamworth station works well for trains from both Birmingham and London. Expect a 10-15 walk to Kettlebrook Road. By Reg: Coaches leaving Radfords at 10.30am with a serious refreshment stop. Adults £15 per seat and Under 16’s a tenner. Visit Hereford Awaydays Facebook group for bookings.