hartleywelcomeIT’S FA VASE weekend and we’ve reached the last 16 stage. There’s an unfamiliar name among the participants in the form of Hereford, the phoenix club that rose from the ashes of the old Hereford United.

Hereford, like their predecessors, play at Edgar Street and are averaging 2,800-plus in the Midland League Premier Division – Step 5 of the non-league game – which they lead by 12 points.

Weather permitting, this Saturday Hereford will visit Hartley Wintney, the Combined Counties League leaders. The Hampshire club is bracing itself for a sell-out crowd and an influx of Hereford fans that will surely create a unique atmosphere at Hartley Wintney’s Memorial Playing Fields.

It has been a phenomenal campaign for Hartley Wintney – they have lost just four games all season.

They started their Vase campaign back in September and have beaten Longevens, Milton United, Wokingham & Emmbrook, Windsor, Collier Wood and Bradford Town on the way to the fifth round.

The club’s success has made some of their players a target. Godalming and Farnborough have eyed skipper Sam Argent and striker Ross Cook respectively. Both players elected to stay with Hartley Wintney for the time being.

The club recently called for help to bolster their promotion push, notably around ground improvements. This included volunteer labour and sponsors for materials – not uncommon for teams who find their infrastructure is challenged to keep pace with the progress of the team. These are exciting times at Hartley Wintney, though, and with Hereford’s arrival, they could see 20x their average crowd crammed into the Memorial ground. As well as being “The Row’s” biggest game in their history, it is arguably the most notable game in the very short existence of Hereford.

Most of non-league football, and anyone who recalled Hereford United’s FA Cup exploits of the 1970s, would have been gladdened by the news that the people of the old market town would still have a senior football club after the demise of the Bulls.

They had a strange start to the season, losing three games early on, including a 4-5 home defeat at the hands of Coleshill Town. But since then, it has been all guns blazing and they’ve notched up 80 goals in their 25 Midland League games. And some Midland League clubs have never seen crowds like it when Hereford roll into town!

In the FA Vase, they’ve got past Bardon Hill, Rocester, Haughmond, Brocton and Leicester Nirvana. Hereford have only conceded one goal on the way.

Possible squads:

Hartley Wintney:  Craig Atkinson, Callum Eagle, Tom Walsh, Aaron Parfitt, Steve Noakes, Julian Sills, Steve Duff, Ian Jones, Sam Argent, Ross Cook, Adam Everiss, Jake Maddock, Marc Vockins, Joe Paris, Toby Jannaway, Jack Coventry.

Hereford: Martin Horsell, Jimmy Oates, Joel Edwards, Dylan Bonella, Ryan Green, Nathan Summers, Mustapha Bundu, Aaron Birch, John Mills, Pablo Haysham, Mike Symons, Jamie Willets, Joe Tumelty, Ross Staley, Sirdic Grant, James Pilling

Game of the People will be at Hartley Wintney v Hereford and will also be reporting for the Non-League Paper in the newspaper’s “Match of the Day”.

The game will need to overcome the elements to go ahead, however. A pitch inspection is taking place at 9am on Saturday morning.

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