Saturday, March 19, 2005

Bulls domination lacks killer punch

Hereford United dominated throughout in their Conference encounter with Crawley Town this afternoon but, not for the first time this season, lacked the finishing touch and were left frustrated by the goal-less draw, which leaves them in nineth position, three points adrift of the final play off spot.

Rob Purdie and Danny Carey-Bertram were recalled to the strike force; Lee Mills and Adams Stansfield, who started in the replay against Hucknall made way for them in dropping to the bench. Andy Tretton started as skipper Tony James is out with an ankle injury, and Jamie Pitman took over the captain's role.

Hereford first threatened following a corner, taken by Danny Williams, when Tamika Mkandawire failed to make full contact with a free header, but it found Purdie at the far post who saw his shot blocked and then turned behind. Ryan Green caused all sorts of problems for Sean Hankin on the Hereford right; he skinned Hankin before squaring the ball towards Craig Stanley and Carey-Bertram but the two got in the way of each other and the chance passed.

Goalkeeper Paul Smith let a pass back roll underneath in feet, but luckily for him it was just wide of the post and went out for a corner. The Red's top scorer was the first of many in the book this afternoon when Charlie McDonald caught Green with a late challenge. Stanley found Carey-Bertram's run out to the left and he then rounded Ben Judge before crossing, but it was just beyond Stanley and Williams.

Neil Jenkins volleyed Crawley's first effort on goal from twenty five yards, but it didn't trouble Craig Mawson. Jenkins was booked moments after for dissent. Quick thinking from Pitman, after being fouled on the edge of the box, resulted in United's best chance of the half. Pitman took it quickly and found Carey-Bertram in space just inside the box, but he sliced his effort wide.

Green and Williams linked up well on the right with the latter suplying a good cross for Stanley, but he directed his header inches the wrong side of the far post. Paul Armstrong and Mo Harkin were booked, and Pitman raced onto Stanley's pass to fire at the 'keeper, who gathered at the second attempt before the interval.

Francis Vines changed things around at half time, replacing Hankin at left back with an attacker in Daniel Marney. This though, had no real affect on the run of play. Simon Travis played the ball forward to Purdie, but he let it run for Carey-Bertram who had a run on goal. He took a touch too many though and was dispossed by a challenge, which knocked the ball behind for a corner. Williams saw his well struck free kick from thirty yards caught by Smith before Sacha Opinel was received a yellow card and Pitman was replaced by Stansfield.

Stansfield was in action soon after his introduction after Williams flicked Stanley's pass on to him, but he fired across goal and wide. Ian Simpemba was next to be cautioned for the visitors before McDonald was replaced by ex-Bull Danny Davidson. Graham Hyde was taken off by Graham Turner and Mills was sent on, as United pushed for a winner.

Opinal then received a second yellow card when he clattered into man of the match Mkandawire, leaving Crawley to battle on with ten minutes for the last fifthteen minutes. Purdie, Mills and then Williams were involved in a good move before William's pass, intended for Green on the flank, was touched behind for a corner. Williams swung in the corner from the right and Stanfield beat Smith with a bullet header, but unfortunately he was denied by a defender on the line.

Harkin then crossed a free kick in what turned out to be the closest the Reds came all game, but Simpemba's header was inches wide, having taken a touch off Williams. Mills then held play up well in the last minute and picked Carey-Bertram out to his left. Carey-Bertram cracked a cross into the middle where Stansfield connected well with his head, but it went agonisingly wide. A minute later, the first of four added, Mills' twenty five yard effort was saved well, down low by Smith as Crawley hung on for a point, which they really didn't deserve.

The crowd of 2,211, including 66 away fans, will be frustrated with the result more than the performance as yet again the finishing touch was lacking. United need to turn these draws into victories before too long. If not, it is not unlikely that they will find themselves five or six points away from the play off positions rather than two or three.

HUFC Team: Mawson, Green, Mkandawire, Tretton, Travis, Stanley, Hyde, Pitman, Williams, Purdie, Carey-Bertram. Subs: Smith, Robinson, Lewis, Stansfield, Mills.

CTFC: Smith, Judge, Simpemba, Donovan, Hankin, Opinel, Harkin, Gooding, Jenkins, Armstrong, McDonald. Subs: Little, Marney, Tate, Healy, Davidson.