Hereford United were unable to hold onto the lead and dropped two points late on against Gravesend & Northfleet this evening at Edgar Street. The draw will seem even more frustrating when the news of Exeter's defeat and York's draw find its way to Hereford.
With Ryan Green back from suspension and Jon Brady suffering with a groin strain, Graham Turner made just the one change to the starting eleven, with Green replacing Brady. Rob Purdie moved into attack alongside Danny Carey-Bertram and Green took his usual position at right wing back. Graham Evans recovered from injury and was named on the bench for The Bulls.
Gravesend started the game brightly, with three corners in the first couple of minutes, the first of which came with just seconds gone when Dean Beckwith misplaced a headed pass back. Alex Jeannin was busy on the left for Hereford and had it not been for a good cut out by a defender, Purdie would have had an easy tap in following Jeannin's cross early on. Carey-Bertram fired wide when he was presented with the ball following a short head back from a defender, but he fired wide of the far post from twenty yards.
Purdie was the supplier this time for Jeannin when he split the defence with a pass to Jeannin, attacking from the left, and he saw his effort go narrowly wide of the far post.Craig Stanley was quick to close down, and disposess a defender on the half way line but Carey-Bertram should have done better when presented with a good chance after Green's early cross. Almost immediately at the other end, Beckwith had to make a brilliant recovering tackle to deny Charlie McDonald. Before the half was over, Purdie forced Craig Holloway into a good save and Jay Saunders volleyed just over for the visitors.
Hereford came out for the second half with renewed enery and looked more dangerous. Purdie was not to far away from Carey-Bertram's cross just moments after the restart and, after a counter attack, Jeannin was just unable to reach Purdie's through ball before 'keeper Holloway. However, with eigth minutes of the half gone, The Bulls broke the deadlock. Purdie played a superb through ball inside the left back for Carey-Bertram, and he centred for Stanley who swept the ball home from close range.
Jeannin smashed a training ground free-kick regime inches over from twenty five yards soon after the opener, but The Fleet, from then on, began to get back into the game and started causing United some problems. Bobby Bowry forced Wayne Brown into a wonderful save with a volley from outside of the box, which the 'keeper managed to tip onto the crossbar. A good spell for Gravesend followed, with a number of corners from which they looked threatening. Brown was again called upon to make a good save after a scramble in the box, and then somehow, when the ball fell to Saunders, he managed to fire over from point blank range.
It was then United's turn to put some pressure on the visitors, but they failed to make anything of four successive corners before disaster struck and Gravesend equalised. A corner was awarded when man of the match Beckwith blocked a cross and Graham Turner took the opportunity to make his first change, sacrificing a striker for a defender. Carey-Bertram, who had just been booked, was replaced by Mkandawire but the reinforcement failed to work as Gravesend scored from the corner. The ball fell in the box and Bowry hit an instinctive shot that flew through a crowd of players and into the back of the net, much to the delight of the travelling support of 38. Brady was brought on in a last ditch attempt to retake the lead. Purdie crossed for Pitman, but his outstrethced boot directed the ball just wide and Mkandawire headed just wide in the last minute from a Purdie corner.
It proved to be an extremely frustrating night for Hereford and they will be most disappointed, especially considering other results, at having conceded so late on. Turner must be regretting his decision to make a change at such a crucial point in the game; it is often said that you should never make a sub when there's a corner to defend. It was evident that Gravesend were pressing and Hereford needed some fresh ideas with around twenty minutes to go, and it has to be wondered why a change wasn't made before.
The gap has been closed between the leaders and now eigth placed Hereford following the draw, in front of 2,396, but Hereford are still to string together two victories this season, something that they will want to put right much sooner than later. The next game is away to Halifax next Saturday.
HUFC: Brown, James, Blewitt, Beckwith, Jeannin, Green, Pitman, Stanley, Ferrell, Purdie, Carey-Bertram. Subs: Mkandawire, Mawson, Brady, Williams, Evans.
GNFC: Holloway, Protheroe, Graham-Smith, McCarthy, Daniel Glozier, Slatter, Saunders, Bowry, Jackson, MacDonald, Drury. Subs: Aaron Kerr, Gooding, Surey, Omoyinmi, Grant.