Whoever you ask, you’ll get the same answer. The FA Cup is the greatest cup competition in world football. The atmosphere. The giant-killings. The chance for players to immortalise their name – like Hereford’s Ronnie Radford.
And speaking of the Bulls, Ladbrokes News were at Edgar Street on Saturday to watch prolific Hereford hitman John Mills, as part of Ladbrokes deal as the official betting partner of the FA.
Having netted 40 times in the Midland League Premier Divison last season, we went to discover if he could be the next Jamie Vardy – and to have an exclusive chat with the former Didcot Town forward.
One man who knows ‘Millsy’ well certainly thinks he has all the attributes to make the step up to professional football. Here’s what Hereford FC fan and stadium announcer Matt Healey had to say about the striker, who netted a hat-trick against Bridgewater Town the previous weekend.
So, did he impress in Hereford’s first FA Cup game since the club’s reformation in 2015? And did the Bulls get the business done?
Hereford v Alvechurch – Match Report:
Alvechurch were pipped to the Midland League Premier Division title by Hereford last season, and the visitors’ bid for revenge begins in blistering fashion.
Jack Cresswell fires home a curling free-kick after just 50 seconds of the game, and while a huge crowd of 2,624 raise the decibels to show their support for the Bulls after that early goal, they’re left stunned when lively Alvechurch midfielder Josh Sarmento nets to double the scores. With less than 10 minutes gone, it’s 0-2.
Sarmento is the best performer in the first half, and there’s a collective sigh of relief when home keeper Martin Horsell dives superbly to stop the pacy Church striker putting the game to bed.
From there, the match drifts to half-time with only Mills’ strike partner Pablo Heysham mustering a shot in a disappointing opening period for the hosts.
But David, a 36-year-old builder and lifelong Hereford fan is confident of the 40-goal striker’s ability to turn things around.
“John is superb”, David says. “He puts 110% in every week. Does his best for the side, whether he’s starting or on the bench. He always plays with a great attitude.”
And he rates the Bulls’ striker as a man for the big occasion, explaining: “Millsy always makes a huge contribution. His goal against Camberley in the FA Vase last season was the biggest of our season.” A set of traits very much in keeping with a certain Jamie Vardy.
Up until the hour mark, though, Hereford are struggling to get any service to their striking pair of Mills and Heysham – whose telepathic understanding has been built over time at both Didcot Town and Hereford.
Then, with 68 minutes on the clock, Peter Beadle’s side – and particularly a certain prolific number nine explode into life.
Mills finishes smartly from an inch-perfect cross to give the Edgar Street faithful a huge lift, before star substitute Jamie Cuss nods home brilliantly to level a minute later.
Then Mike Symons scrambles the ball home, and several Alvechurch players sink to the floor in disbelief. It’s 3-2 to Hereford. They’ve scored three goals in as many minutes.
The home side have done the damage, and aside from a disallowed goal, the visitors from Worcestershire look exhausted and short of ideas. And a clumsy challenge on a Hereford breakaway allows Mills the chance to double his tally from the penalty spot in the dying minutes.
He hits it hard, low and leaves visiting keeper Paul Evans stranded. It’s a strike the Leicester City and England star would have been proud of.
Despite a few neat touches, when half-time arrived, we hadn’t seen the very best John Mills. But great strikers only need the slightest chance to make an impact. And he turned this game on its head with a sensational second-half showing.
Having netted his first opportunity with a silky finish, the 26-year-old also put away the penalty excellently, while his only other chance skimmed the post.
Admittedly, John was quiet for chunks of the game, but his finishing, knock-downs, and classy touches when he managed to get on the ball showed us he has all the attributes to play further up the leagues.
If Hereford can win another promotion this season – something Mills himself is confident of – then he’s sure to attract interest from a higher level.
Here’s what the Bulls’ brilliant striker had to say about all that when he sat down with us: