Hereford United eased to victory at Gnoll Park in the early kick-off, with a 6-2 victory at Neath. United took the lead through debutant Joe Colbeck, before a quickly-taken free-kick from Kevin Cooper levelled proceedings. Sean Canham then finished well to hand Hereford a narrow advantage at the break. In the second-period, fitness shone through and Hereford added three goals through Colbeck, Canham and Stuart Fleetwood. Leon Thomas headed in a consolation for the hosts before Canham completed the scoring, with his hattrick.
Simon Davey's men only had to wait seven minutes to open the scoring. The ball broke for Colbeck on the right, with the recently signed winger nicking the ball around his marker before shooting across 'keeper Craig Morris and into the far corner. Craig Hughes struck straight at Dan Connor from the edge of the area whilst at the other end, Fleetwood had two chances, with one ending up into the arms of Morris and the other finding the back of the stand. A free-kick in the middle of the park wasn't dealt with by Michael Townsend and it fell nicely to Paul Fowler, with his header from a tight angle hitting the outside of the post.
Colbeck's placed left-foot shot fell yards wide before the hosts managed to get themselves back into the game. A free-kick from Cooper, some 30 yards out, was hit early and caught the United defence off-guard and beat Connor at his near-post. The 'keeper was left berating his defence who weren't organised. Cooper came close to scoring a second in a matter of minutes, with a quick-corner seeing the ball make its way to the midfielder but this time, a left-foot shot cleared the bar. As the half progressed to an end, Canham put Hereford back in front. The ball was won back mid-way in the Neath half and Kenny Lunt slotted a through ball to Canham on the left edge of the box, and the former Notts County man sent a right-foot shot around Morris and into the far corner.
The second-half took a while to get going, although the hosts looked the more likely to register in the early stages. Lee Trundle tried a trademark left-foot bender towards the far corner but could only find the arms of Connor before former Swansea City youngster Chad Bond broke from the half-way line but couldn't hit the target with a long-range effort. O'Neil Thompson should have made it 3-1, when Fleetwood played him in but the Jamaican international went for power instead of placing it and smashed it over the bar. An instinctive through ball by Colbeck found Fleetwood racing through with the striker failing to hit the target at the near-post. Fleetwood then tried an overhead kick inside the area which fell a couple of feet over the bar. Neath had a couple of half-chances through Ian Hiller's header, which was off-target whilst Hughes's left-foot shot was parried away by Connor.
After Fleetwood had headed a Colbeck header over the bar, the goals started to fly in, with Colbeck's second coming in the 80th minute. A pass by Mcquilkin from the left found Colbeck in acres of space and he drilled a shot into the far corner. Just one minute later, a fourth goal was scored as Thompson lifted a pass over the back-line for Canham to race onto and he fired past Morris from inside the area. Daniel Stratford replaced Colbeck, in Hereford's only sub of the day as the Bulls added a third goal in the space of five minutes. Fleetwood broke from the right, and eventually fired in off the post with a right-foot shot despite looking like he had done too much. The hosts managed to pull another goal back, after Trundle had out-skilled Janos Kovacs and a scooped cross was headed in by sub Leon Thomas under the bar. Yet, Hereford had the final say in the match as Stratford's deft touch set up Canham from 25 yards and the striker grabbed his hattrick with an excellently struck shot which found the top corner.
Like so many games against lower graded opposition, fitness was the main factor and Hereford dominated the final stages, grabbing four goals in the process. The returning Thompson in his defensive midfield role was key to the victory, allowing Mcquilkin and Lunt to hold higher positions on the field. Colbeck showed some good touches on right-wing, showing a good work-rate and defensive mind, as well as taking his two goals extremely well. Mathieu Manset was missing due to injury, but hopefully will return to the line-up next weekend against Crewe; Canham, despite his three well taken goals, appears to offer little else and his strike-partner Fleetwood was visibly frustrated with him today. Around 300 fans were present at Gnoll Park; many of the Hereford fans who made the journey are likely to be at Gresty Road next Saturday, when Crewe entertain the Bulls in the opening League Two fixture.
Hereford: Connor, Green, Kovacs, Townsend, Valentine, Colbeck (Stratford), Thompson, Lunt, Mcquilkin, Fleetwood, Canham.
Subs not used: Bartlett, Kanoute, Weir, Rose, Gwynne, Evans, Reid, Malsom, Thomas.
Neath: Morris, Cummings, Fairbourne, Cochlin, Hillier, Cooper, Hill, Fowler, Hughes, Trundle, Bond.