Saturday 10 December 2022

Hereford Lads Club - County Ground

Hereford Lads Club FC
County FA Ground
Widemarsh Common

Ground Number: 1141
Saturday 10th December 2022
Hereford Lads Club 1-3 Mangotsfield United
Hellenic Premier


The club was established in 1925 as a sports club for the underprivileged, initially focused on boxing and gymnastics. Cricket and football teams were added at a later date. The football team, initially a youth team, progressed into adult football. They would later join the Herefordshire League, winning the Division 1 title in 2003.  They were promoted to the Premier Division and after a run of either finishing in 5th or 9th for the next decade, they finished as runners-up to Westfields Reserves in 2011. Following this, they moved to the West Midlands (Regional) League, finishing as runners-up to Haughmond in their first season. They'd have to wait until the following season when they finished 3rd for promotion to Division 1. In 2016, Hereford Lads club finished as runners-up to Shifnal Town, usually good enough for promotion to the Premier Division which would have represented a step up to step 6 at the time. However, they were denied promotion due to their lack of floodlights but would put that right the next season by finishing as champions. They started steadily in the WMRL Premier but their performance over the two pandemic-affected seasons was deemed good enough for promotion to the Hellenic Premier. Last season saw the club finish a respectable 13th in their debut season at step 5.

Hereford Lads Club have played two seasons in the FA Cup, but are yet to progress. They did manage to take Haughmond to a replay last season though. The FA Vase has seen them fare a little better with their best progress in 2018 when they beat Coventry Copsewood and Paget Rangers before a defeat to Hinckley in the 2nd Round. They've also twice reached the final of the Herefordshire County Cup twice, losing to relative giants Hereford. They finally put that right in 2021, beating local rivals Westfields 4-2.     The most famous player to play for Hereford Lads Club was Kevin Sheedy. The midfielder played for the club as a youngster before going on to play for a number of league clubs, most notably Everton where he made 274 appearances, scoring 67 goals. He was also a Republic of Ireland international, scoring 9 goals in 46 appearances.

Hereford is a cathedral city and the county town of Herefordshire. The population of around 53,000. It is known chiefly as a trading centre for a wider agricultural and rural area. Products from Hereford include cider, beer, leather goods, nickel alloys, poultry, chemicals and sausage rolls, as well as the famous Hereford breed of cattle. Famous people from Hereford include the singer Ellie Goulding. Other teams from Hereford include Hereford FC of the National League North and fellow Hellenic Premier Clubs Westfields and Hereford Pegasus. Lower down, local clubs in the Herefordshire League include Hereford Civil Service, Hinton, Belmont Rangers, Bartrestree, Holme Lacey and Hereford City.

I had wanted to go to Hereford for some time now, due to the decent range of pubs for cider fans. Therefore, it would have to be on the train, but the prices were an absolute disgrace at £82 for a standard return. That worked out at over 30p a mile and with the chance that the trains might be on strike, with the firms fleecing workers and customers alike. I could cut the cost down using advance and split tickets and so found a date when both the clubs I needed - Lads Club and Pegasus - were at home. The 10th of December was one such date and with both clubs having 3G, snow was the only thing that could thwart me weather-wise. That, over the ever-regular strikes, but fortune smiled upon me as this weekend looked to be clear of both. This was all booked back on 25th October, after weeks of indecision, a couple of pints in Wetherspoons gave me the confidence to take the plunge.
The only question was where to go - Hereford Pegasus or Hereford Lads Club. Originally, the former kicked off at 3 and the latter at 2. I was hoping that I'd be able to get both done with kickoff times set to change for the England game, I was hoping that things might line up for a potential double. In fact, the opposite happened with both deciding upon a 2 PM kick-off. I'd got no problem with that - after all, clubs should absolutely put volunteers, their regulars and players at the top of their priorities. There was also the saving on floodlights to be considered with bills rocketing. It did, however, put both clubs on a level pegging, with me originally favouring Lads Club due to the earlier kickoff. Indeed, they got the nod. More recommendations, hopped on the Hellenic Hop last year, nearer to town and statistically more chance of goals swung it in the end. Whether Hereford Pegasus would be on a later hop was open to question - both Westfields and Lads Club had hosted games, so I can only presume that Pegasus turned it down.
The week leading up to the game was fairly uneventful with no games since Tuesday. I started planning my trip and was considering a stopover in Worcester on the way home. However, I was informed by the train companies that a break of the journey was not allowed, despite me having to change trains. The bonkers world of train tickets. I was informed, however, that Worcester Foregate Street had no gates by several people, so I was planning to scope it out in the morning and make a decision. As the week progressed, it got colder and colder and as early as Friday night, some teams were calling off games, given the grim forecast with Hereford not getting above 4 degrees all day. Even some 3G pitches were planning inspections given the baltic temperatures. Usually, I'll have a few drinks on Friday night but decided to have a sober one, having had a decent week at work and considering I'd be getting stuck in tomorrow. I'd been hoping for a good night's sleep, but things are never that simple. I got a few hours decent shut-eye but then woke up at 3 and the rest of the night was very patchy.
 I still felt OK in the morning, even if it took me five minutes to get out of bed. I got dressed and got my stuff together before having a porridge pot leaving at 7.05. Despite the freezing temperatures, it was quite pleasant to be out once I got moving. I listened to various podcasts on the way, getting to the station well in advance of my 8.24 train. I got the Birmingham bound service, changing at King's Sutton. It was a chilly old platform after the warm train but at least I only had a 7-minute wait. I got the train to Oxford which seemed counterproductive. However, upon checking last night, National Rail Enquiries had recommended I catch a train ten minutes earlier to Oxford and still arrive at the same time. It was a slow but steady service to Worcester Foregate Street from Oxford with the ground, at least visually, starting to defrost in a lot of areas. Worcester Foregate Street did indeed have no gates, useful to know later as a break in my drinking and a meal at Wetherspoons would be sensible. I was in Hereford at 12.14 and walked just under 20 minutes to Hereford Beer House. This was an excellent pub and I had a pint of Ross On Wye Life Is Bittersweet. It was an excellent pint from my favourite maker and I was starting to feel pretty relaxed. It was helped by a large but very friendly dog who was in there too. I could have had another but instead made my way to Beefy Boys, a very popular burger restaurant. I decided to risk the wait, opting for a rude boy burger and fries. It took a while and cost £16.50 including service but it was delicious. I only had ten minutes to do a 15-minute walk so it was past the delightful home of Hereford FC and onto today's game. I saw the game kick off through the fence and got in with the game a couple of minutes old. Entry was £7 and the programme a bargain £1.

Hereford Lads Club were unbeaten in their last five games. They'd had 3-2 victories over Roman Glass St George, Royal Wooton Bassett Town and Bradford Town. They'd also won by the same scoreline at Shrivenham and drawn 0-0 at Wantage Town. Mangotsfield United were in mixed form, having won 1-0 at Fairford Town and beaten Tuffley Rovers 4-2. However, they'd lost 7-2 at Malvern Town and 4-1 at Brimscombe & Thrupp as well as a 5-2 home defeat to Worcester Raiders. The visitors had the better of the opening period and they took the lead on 9 minutes. Simon Prangley with a lobbed effort over the goalkeeper who had come out to deal with a shot. Mangotsfield came close just after, drilling wide and earning a corner. Their second came on 27 minutes, the lead doubled although I didn't have the best view as I was up the other end. It was a header, scored by Jayden Crosbie. Hereford Lads Club offered little and 33 minutes in, Mangotsfield headed a shot against the post and the home keeper did well to scoop it out of the goal. The hosts offered very little, the closest they came was when a curling cross hit the bar. From there, Mangotsfield broke and a good ball found Crosbie who found the bottom left corner with a curling shot on 73 minutes, his second and his team's third. Lads Club finally pulled one back nine minutes from time, Brandon Jennings heading home from a corner. The day went from bad to worse for the Lads Club manager, sent off for something he said to the referee, called him a liar and wanted a row with anyone who fancied it. It was a sorry end, but it doesn't reflect on the club which were very friendly.

I'd bought a ticket for guess the team, choosing Sunderland for £1. I would have got a Bovril too, but they'd run out. It had been a good day so far, a later kickoff would have made things easier and I probably could have planned better but I still had plenty of time to kill. I walked the 15 minutes to the Beer in Hand, another super pub with friendly dogs. I had another pint from the masters at Ross, this time 4 apples 3 years. It was nice and warm and I was able to watch the Wycombe game or at least the second half of it. For my final drink, I had half of Ross Dabinett and Bramley, another exceptional cider. For once, I'd displayed some form of moderation, but I'll certainly be back in Hereford, preferably in sunnier times. Via Morrisons for some Irn Bru, I was back in good time for the 5.39 train. I regretted not bringing something with me, but what was done was done. I was especially delighted for my mate Anwar as his Morocco boys ousted Portugal and their poor man's Eusebio. The plan was to go into Worcester, and tick at least one Wetherspoons before my timed 8PM train home, but who knows with the way the trains are nowadays. That point was typified by a 20-minute stop at Ledbury due to a points failure, though the staff did their best to remedy the situation.


THE COUNTY GROUND is a decent setup and very handy for cold weather, having a 3G pitch. It is also convenient for Hereford Town Centre, being 15 minutes walk away, although the train station is that distance again. There's parking, possibly pay and display but plentiful. There's a bar with drinks and basic snacks but the centre of Hereford has far more. As for the ground, it has a main stand, seating around 100. There is a smaller stand with another 50 seats and a small area of standing cover, meant for disabled fans. Overall, well worth a visit and a great day out.


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