10:00am Friday 27th April 2012
By Richard Prime
HEREFORD United face two Cup finals to save their Football League status.
United are a point ahead of Macclesfield and trail Barnet by two points, although with a superior goal difference.
But, ahead of their trip to Crawley on Saturday, the Bulls will be looking to one of their most popular old boys to do them a favour and inspire his current team-mates in the final two games of the League Two season.
Tony James, a key defender in eight of United’s nine years in the Conference, is now at Burton Albion, who have to meet Macclesfield and Barnet in their final two games.
But the Brewers have not been in the sort of form to inspire much confidence with a record 7-1 defeat at Bristol Rovers followed by a 4-0 home reverse against Aldershot Town.
“It’s not been good,” admitted James, who made his return from injury as a substitute against Aldershot.
“When Gary Rowett took over as caretaker manager at Burton, he got the response and we picked up the points we needed to secure our position but the last two games have been bad.
“But there is still a lot to play for here. Only eight of the players are under contract for next season and we don’t yet know who the manager will be.
“The signs are that Gary will get the job and people will need to impress him — they are huge games for both of the sides we are playing.”
James, who made more than 280 Conference appearances for the Bulls, still lives in Hereford and knows that United face a tough battle to hold on to the Football League status won at Leicester’s Walkers Stadium, when he was an unused substitute.
“They could not really have two harder games with a trip to Crawley and then Torquay at Edgar Street,” he said. “It will be a big ask and they just have to go about it professionally. They must win on Saturday and hope for the best — if they can take it to the final game then pressure can tell.
“I know Hereford inside out and have a lot of feeling for the club — I always look for the results and since they have been in this position, I’ve been hoping they can pick up points here and there.
“Richard O’Kelly is a great motivator; I have spoken to a few of the lads at Edgar Street and they have all been pleased with what he has done. The results have just not gone for him.”
Bulls boss O’Kelly, who will have Simon Clist and Danny Williams back from injury to add to his squad, is doing his best to relieve the pressure on his players ahead of the trip to the Broadfield Stadium.
“It is a game of football to go out and enjoy,” he said. “You cannot start worrying about the repercussions.
“The players need to be up for it, and they are, and we need to prepare properly.
“But Crawley are as good a side as I have seen in League Two this season and, in Gary Alexander and Billy Clark, have two of the best strikers in the division.”
On Saturday, Barnet will host Wimbledon and Macclesfield entertain Burton.
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