Hereford United re-established themselves as major promotion contenders with a superb 2-0 victory against run-away leaders Barnet at Underhill this afternoon. Barnet retain their fifthteen point advantage at the top, but the play off places have now been closed to just one point between second and seventh.
Hereford named the same starting eleven that have played the past two games, but made changes to the bench where there was no place for Graham Hyde or Tom Smith. Neither travelled with the squad. Adam Stansfield started amongst the subs, as did Andy Tretton.
Barnet started the contest well, with some good possesion and hit the bar, although with a bit of luck to give Hereford an early scare. A corner was swung in from the right that was caught by the wind, and it was untouched as it bounced in the area up onto the cross bar. The Bulls came into the game well though, with good running by Joe Anyinsah whose deflected shot dipped inches over Scott Tynan's goal.
Barnet again played some nice passing but didn't trouble the away defence too much. Simon King's volleyed effort needed a block to divert it out for a corner though. Craig Stanley found Williams in space to the left of the area, but his low drive was collected easily by the 'keeper. Dwaine Lee worked a good opening for Nicky Bailey with a square ball, but he couldn't keep his effort down as it sailed over Craig Mawson's goal.
Anyinsah was Hereford's most potent threat; his mazy runs caused problems throughout and he should maybe have done better after a good dribble past several opponents, but his shot was blocked by a recovering defender. Thirty three minutes had passed when the deadlock was broken, thanks to good thinking by Stanley. He took a quick free kick in his own half, setting Danny Williams free on the left. His through ball was well timed for Danny Carey-Bertram, who ran onto it and slotted a low shot into the far bottom corner.
Barnet tried to get back into the game before half time, but again didn't trouble. A free kick was swung in from the right that Mawson dealt with by punching away, but Dean Sinclair returned the ball with a volley, which Mawson caught well.
The second half started with a very heavy rainstorm, which made conditions difficult for both sides. Liam Hatch managed to force Mawson into his best save of the game with a shot from inside the area that the 'keeper dived to his right and tipped behind. Craig Stanley wasted a great opportunity to double the advantage when Carey-Bertram returned his pass with a cross that he managed to head over from inside the area.
Hereford, who were dangerous on the counter attack all afternoon, broke after a Barnet corner with Rob Purdie down right, but Purdie's ball in search of Anyinsah, who was free at the far post, was cut out by a defender chasing back. Jamie Pitman's hard work almost paid off when he crossed for Stanley, after tackling Ian Hendon, but Stanley again shot over when unmarked no more than six yards out. Both teams made subs, firstly David Brown was introduced for Williams. He was immediately involved as he headed a free kick down for Carey-Bertram to volley at Tynan.
Purdie's shot then skimmed off the wet surface from twenty five yards, and flew inches wide before Barnet replaced Richard Graham and Hatch with Ben Strevens and Guy Lopez. Purdie was sacrificed for the fresh legs of Stansfield; a move which eventually paid off for Graham Turner. Ryan Green was bought on as defensive cover for Carey-Bertram on eighty nine minutes as Hereford soaked up pressure for the remaining four added minutes.
With three of the four minutes gone, the Bulls cleared their lines and Stansfield raced onto a long clearance, got ahead of his marked, rounded the advancing 'keeper and fired into the roof of the net for 2-0.
The 500 or so away supporters in a crowd of 2,668 offered fantastic vocal support, which was appreciated by the players as they applauded their fans at the end of the game. Captain Man of the match Tony James was faultless at the back for the Bulls and was looking much more like his old self. He and Mkandawire did an excellent job at keeping Guiliano Grazioli quiet. The Bulls have sent out a big message to the rest of the Conference with this result; look out the Bulls are on the charge.
HUFC Team: Mawson, Travis, James, Mkandawire, Robinson, Williams, Stanley, Pitman, Anyinsah, Purdie, Carey-Bertram. Subs: Tretton, Green, Scott, Brown, Stansfield.
BFC Team: Tynan, Hendon, Clist, Charles, King, Bailey, Lee, Sinclair, Graham, Grazioli, Hatch. Subs: Gore. Elmes, Champion, Lopez, Strevens.