Hereford are finding life back in the Blue Square Bet Premier extremely difficult after falling out of the Football League for the second time in 15 years last season, writes Mike Simmonds.
The club are in severe financial difficulties, with chairman David Keyte warning recently that the Bulls may even have to go part time, after announcing they are losing £8,000 a week.
With average attendances down by almost half from just six years ago, Keyte told shareholders at a meeting late last month they already owe £110,000 in tax payments.
The cost-cutting exercise in place is starting to have an effect, as it was confirmed the squad didn’t receive their wages on time last month, with director of football, former Shrewsbury boss Gary Peters, parting company with the club too.
Manager Martin Foyle has also claimed he will have to pick half-fit players for games in the future due the sparsity of his squad.
On the pitch, Hereford had started the season in superb form with three wins and a draw from their first four games, looking like they had adapted well to another stint in the Conference.
Five defeats from seven then followed, including two embarrassing losses, going down 5-2 at Hyde and then 4-0 to Dartford.
They haven’t been able to recover their early season form either, with just two league wins from their last 12 games, and are without a league victory at Edgar Street for three matches, losing to Forest Green and Stockport, while drawing with Braintree.
The FA Cup has come as a blessed distraction to Foyle’s side though as they defeated FC United 2-0 to reach the first round when they earned another famous win at the weekend, beating League Two Shrewsbury, managed by former Bulls stalwart Graham Turner, in one of the major shocks of the round.
The loss of striker Marlon Jackson has been keenly felt by the Bulls as he netted four goals in his opening six games, before tearing a hamstring.
Experienced defender Chris Todd has been brought in on a free, and helped the club to two clean sheets in his first two games, while striker Kyle Perry has also joined on loan from Nuneaton, making two substitute appearances thus far.
Phil Marsh arrived on loan from Forest Green Rovers last month too, with the 25-year-old netting on his debut against Stockport.
The club did bring a host of players on free transfers during the summer, with Sean Canham, Ryan Bowman, James Bittner and Andy Gallinagh all joining, although they lost the likes of Joe Colbeck, Rob Purdie and former Town trialist Nathan Elder.
Team news: Hatters have on-loan York City midfielder Jonathan Smith available after he joined on Monday, while Simon Ainge is also in the squad after he was cup-tied at the weekend.
Doubts remain over Alex Lawless (ankle), Mark Tyler (back) and Jon Shaw (thigh), but James Dance is now back in training after making the bench for Saturday’s game.
There are still no comeback dates for either Danny Spiller or Garry Richards though.
Bulls’ striker Marlon Jackson remains out with a torn hamstring and wing-back Chris Carruthers continues to struggle with an Achilles injury, while Marley Watkins is also doubtful.
Man in the middle: Peter Banks - Has officiated seven Conference games this season, but none since the 1-0 win for Newport County over Ebbsfleet on October 9.
Has shown nine yellow cards, but five came in the same match as Wrexham defeated Forest Green, where he also produced his only red card thus far too,
Last season he was in charget of six Blue Square Bet Premier ties, including Luton’s 1-1 draw at Bath City, where he sent off two of the hosts players in a 1-1 draw.
Top BSBP scorer: Bulls – Ryan Bowman (5). Hatters - Stuart Fleetwood (10).
In charge: Martin Foyle - enjoyed a 20-year playing career, making 533 League appearances and scoring 155 goals for the likes of Aldershot, Oxford United and Port Vale. Was Vale’s then record signing in 1991 when he joined for £375,000, netting 107 times to become the club’s top post-war goalscorer.
After retiring, he was Vale manager, caretaker boss at Wrexham and York City chief, winning the FA Trophy and reaching the Conference play-off final, beating Luton over two legs along the way.
Resigned from the Minstermen in September 2010, and was first team coach at Bristol Rovers, then in charge of Northwich Victoria for three months earlier this year before appointed Bulls boss in May.
One to watch: Ryan Bowman – leading scorer for the Bulls this term and full of confidence after his cracking strike against Shrewsbury at the weekend and a coolly taken penalty.
The 20-year-old joined from Darlington in the summer, where he scored 10 league goals for the Quakers, including one against Luton in the 1-1 home draw.
During a frantic finale, he beat Mark Tyler from the spot with four minutes left, before seeing an injury time penalty saved by the keeper.
Friendly faces: Dean Beckwith spent four years at Hereford, making 152 appearances in that time and netting on five occasions.
Stuart Fleetwood has had two spells with the Bulls too, the first when he moved on a free from Cardiff back in January 2006, scoring 11 goals in 52 games.
He then rejoined the club in July 2010, spending a season and a bit at Edgar Street, netting 18 times in 59 games, before joining Hatters in August 2011.
The forward is looking forward to his reunion too, tweeting: “Hoping for a half decent reception at Edgar Street tomorrow. Enjoyed some great times with Hereford. Looking 4ward to it.”
Defender Janos Kovacs had one spell at Edgar Street, leaving Kenilworth Road to join the Bulls, playing 29 times and scoring three goals, before being frozen out and eventually returning to Luton.
For the Bulls, defender Luke Graham joined the club in the summer from Forest Green and has made 13 League appearances so far. The 26-year-old played 14 times for Hatters while on loan from York in the 2010-11 season, scoring once, the winner in a 1-0 FA Trophy victory over Gloucester City.
We’ve got form: Hatters have only ever visited Edgar Street once in their history, that back in the 1976-77 Division Two season, when they came away with a 1-0 win thanks to Ron Futcher on March 19, 1977.
Hatters: Aleksic, Price, Buckley, Chambers, Faulkner, P Futcher, Husband, West, G Futcher, Fuccillo, Aston.
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