HEREFORD FC proved today what everybody already new – they are the team to beat in the Evo-Stik League Southern.
Both on and off the pitch they showed their stay in Division One South and West is very likely to be a short one, bringing force both in fan numbers and player performance to leave Barnstaple Town with a 2-0 win.
All over the pitch the Bulls looked every bit the team expected to charge through the non-League pyramid since forming in 2014.
Last season, it was almost unprecedented success for Hereford, winning the Midland League Premier, Herefordshire County Cup and League Cup. They were only denied a quadruple in the FA Vase final when losing 4-1 to Morpeth Town at Wembley.
They have started in the same form this season, their success in North Devon – which also allowed them the luxury of missing a second-half penalty – made it six from six in all competitions.
Up top, the experienced Mike Symons was a handful all afternoon and while goal machine John Mills – hailed as potentially the new Jamie Vardy only this week – was quiet in the first period, he still managed the get his name on the scoresheet.
Symons was the other to find the back of the net, his strength and power enabling him to turn in the box and rifle home the opener on 11 minutes, after Barnstaple had made a steady start in manager Barry Yeo’s 150th game in charge.
Backed by upwards of 450 fans, Hereford looked dangerous every time they came forward.
Jamie Edge was dictating play in the middle of the park, spraying balls left and right and always finding his man.
The main threat was coming down the Hereford right, in the form of winger Tristan Plummer. Liam Gregory has been Barnstaple’s star man over the past two season, but Plummer had the beating of the full-back during a first half of dominance.
He had already dug a shot into the ground which was comfortably saved by Steve Oliver before his sublime cross was allowed to find the unmarked Mills six yards out to flick a header home and double the lead after 36 minutes.
Yeo will have been disappointed his defence allowed a man who had netted seven goals in five games this season to have so much room that close to goal.
Without leading scorer Ryan Turner due to a hamstring injury, Barnstaple were lacking a killer edge up top.
It took until the 45th minute for them to have their best effort as Gregory drilled a low free-kick just past the far post. Before that Shaun Copp had hooked a volley over for the hosts after nice work by Jack Jenkins and Lee Francis.
It could have been 3-0 10 minutes into the second half as Pablo Haysham controlled in the box and darted past Aaron Harper-Penman who then dived in and brought down his man.
Captain Rob Purdie stepped up but smashed his penalty off the underside of the bar and away.
The chances continued to come for the visitors, Mills beat Harper-Penman out wide, cut in and squared across the six-yard box. Haysham was as bemused as anyone that he managed to side-foot over.
Barnstaple had more to offer in the second half, Dave Pearse dragged one wide, Francis was lively in the middle and substitute Jed Harper-Penman’s high effort was almost fumbled over the line by Martin Horsell.
But it was Hereford looking like the team who could grab a third. Edge drilled a shot just wide from 20 yards and Symons did the same before the excellent Plummer wasreplaced.
It seemed that substitute was the call for the Bulls to see out the game, which they did to make it five out of five in Division One.
Barnstaple Town (3-5-2): Steve Oliver; Scott Huxtable, Aaron Harper-Penman, Craig Allan; Kyle Paine (James Mayne 56), Lee Francis, Jack Jenkins, Shaun Copp (Jed Harper-Penman 61), Liam Gregory; Dave Pearse, James Blake (Scott Sharp 79). Subs not used: Pow, Heeney.
Hereford FC (4-4-2): Martin Horsell; Jimmy Oates, Ryan Green, Jamie Willets, Chris Barker; Tristan Plummer (Jamie Cuss 71), Rob Purdie (Aaron Birch 85), Jamie Edge, Pablo Haysham; Mike Symons, John Mills (Ross Stacey 85). Subs not used: Alex Harris, Chris Parry.
Referee: Timothy Burley