It’s the same story every year. Once a long and demanding season comes to a conclusion, everyone is ready for a rest. This is no more recognised than in non-league, where players balance full-time jobs with playing commitments, some making arduous journeys up and down the country.
The final kick of the ball at Chorley in May signalled a heartbreaking end to a memorable campaign for Spennymoor, but it also represented a chance to reflect on 10 months of progression on and off the field. The things is, once the action ceases, it’s return is suddenly desired. Saturdays become hollow without it. The weekend isn’t greeted with as much enthusiasm and expectation. So, when Moors kicked off their 2019/20 season at Hereford, a collective feeling of relief, excitement and anticipation returned.
Edgar Street is one of the vintage stadium gems in not only the National League North, but the entire country. There is the perfect blend of old and new on show, with the ageing Merton Stand standing opposite the Les Weston stand on the far side. The raucous home support are predominantly housed in the Meadow End, a unique curved design which is where the majority of the noise on a match day is generated.
It’s a ground where Moors experienced an iconic victory in September 2018, heading home with three points thanks to a 3-0 win. On that day, Hereford were still readjusting to a new regime following the dismissal of long time manager Peter Beadle a few weeks into the campaign, with the remainder of the season being more about stability and remaining in the league. After a summer of astute signings and growth behind the scenes, the Bulls posed a very different threat this time around.
The first half was dominated by Jordan Nicholson, the former Darlington striker who earned high praise for his performances for The Quakers last season. Nicholson tested Matthew Gould on two occasions either side of the opening goal of the game, where he avoided the challenge of debutant Carl Magnay before steering a deflected effort past a helpless Gould.
A key trait of the Spennymoor squad last year was the ability to come from behind and get back into games, evident when remembering the comeback wins at Chorley, FC United of Manchester, Darlington and York City. It’s a quality which earned Moors valuable points in the race for the play-off’s, and it’s something that Jason Ainsley had clearly instilled in his five debutants- Magnay, James Roberts, Dan Ward, Ben McKenna and Nathan Buddle – as Spennymoor turned the game on it’s head in the second half.
Hereford gave Moors a helping hand courtesy of two defensive lapses, with Martin Riley guilty of going to ground under minimal contact from Roberts. The former Bull perfectly picked out the staggered run of Andrew Johnson, who in typical fashion, buried a first time effort past Brandon Hall to level matters. The travelling Moors fans (around 70) were treated to AJ’s trademark celebration. A moment which made the ten hour round trip worthwhile.
That goal was the springboard for what was to come as Moors’ second goal followed the same pattern as the first. A Hereford defensive error, this time from Jordan Cullinane-Liburd, allowed Glen Taylor to muscle the centre back off the ball before steadying himself on the angle. It was an angle which required the perfectly executed strike with his weaker foot, but if Taylor proved one thing in 2018/19, it’s that he only needs a flicker of an opening to find the back of the net. The end result was inevitable, and soon after, Moors’ number nine was gleefully running towards the corner flag before being mobbed by his teammates.
Hereford looked flat and out of ideas at that stage, but the introduction of fan favourite Mike Symons gave the Bulls a different outlet. Physically commanding and a focal point to hold the ball up and win flick ons, Symons was involved as the home side forced an equaliser in a thrilling second half. The work was done by Raheem Hanley on the left who skipped past substitute Ryan Hall before drilling in a wicked cross which met the head of Tom Owen-Evans. The midfielder, who netted a penalty in March at The Brewery Field, had been introduced after Taylor’s fine goal, and was in the right place to seal a point which was justified on the balance of play throughout the ninety minutes.
Ainsley was proud of the performance, albeit tinged with a minor sense of frustration given Moors had led with just over ten minutes remaining. A draw would have been welcomed before a ball was kicked, so to leave Edgar Street and begin the season with points on the board bodes well for the coming months. One thing is for sure. It’s never dull at Spennymoor.