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Full-time: Hereford United 4 Ebbsfleet United 2
HEREFORD took full advantage of a lacklustre display by travel-weary Ebbsfleet to resume their second place in the table.
With the game delayed by 90 minutes due to the visitors’ late arrival, Hereford powered into a half-time lead through Marley Watkins.
But the Bulls, despite extending their lead early in the second period through Chris Carruthers, failed to dominate as might have been expected against a side reduced to 10 men.
Moses Ashikodi pulled a goal back but Ryan Bowman restored the three-goal advantage before Joe Howe pulled one back in stoppage time.
Hereford made two changes for the delayed kick-off match with their Kent rivals.
Luke Graham, back to replace Stefan Stam whose first child was due this weekend, resumed as skipper in the middle of the back four while Simon Clist took over from Ashley Sammons.
On the Bulls bench was non-contract winger Brian Smikle, who had spent a loan spell at Hereford during their previous spell in the Conference.
Ebbsfleet, whose nightmare journey to Edgar Street ended at just after 3.30pm in time for the 4.30pm kick-off, included ex-Bulls Ashikodi and Nathan Elder.
Hereford, who had had plenty of time to perfect their strategy, started brightly and had an opening in the second minute only for Clist to lose control in the area.
Marley Watkins then found some space in the area to send a shot skidding wide of the far post.
With Hereford still having the better o f the attacking, Andy Gallinagh made a good run before crossing to Sean Canham whose scuffed shot was easily blocked.
Ebbsfleet were feeling the early pressure and Liam Bellamy and skipper Paul Lorraine were yellos-carded for poor challenges on Harry Pell and Clist respectively.
Sam Clucas made ground down the left on to a Chris Carruthers pass and delivered a dangerous cross which Patrick Ada put behind for the first corner.
But nothing was made of the flag-kick.
On 18 minutes, Ebbsfleet goalkeeper Preston Edwards was called on to make his first save, diving to push away a Pell drive.
Moments later, the keeper was in action again, diving to block Canham’s header after good work on the right by Tom Nichols.
Dan Hanford finally got his hands on the ball after 20 minutes but had little difficulty in gathering an Elder header.
Hereford were swiftly back on the offensive and Edwards had to come racing off his line to clear when Watkins raced through.
The winger, who was in typically dangerous action throughout, drilled a shot just wide moments later.
Hereford took the lead on 27 minutes with a well-worked goal.
Canham slipped the ball through to Watkins who blasted his shot past Edwards into the corner of the net.
Hoping to hit back immediately, Fleet pressed forward and Hanford did well to parry Liam Enver-Marum’s drive.
But Hereford should have extended their lead on 31 minutes when Nichols raced clear after a mistake by Craig Stone, only to shoot straight at Edwards.
Nichols did better just afterwards, though, with a shot from Clist’s pas which fizzed inches the wrong side of the far upright.
On 35 minutes, Hereford won their third corner when Sam Clucas’ shot deflected behind and it brought the second goal.
Watkins and Clucas exchanged passes before Watkins delivered the cross for Canham to head his third goal in four games.
Elder forced a low save from Hanford but it was a rare incursion for the visitors who were mostly pegged back by the rampant Bulls.
On the stroke of half-time, Bellamy collected his second yellow card for a horrid challenge on Nichols, leaving the visitors to play the second period with 10 men.
Two minutes into the second-half, the Bulls extended their lead when a corner was partly cleared to Carruthers 25 yards out and he smashed home a drive off a post.
But the Bulls defence went to sleep a couple of minutes later when Joe Howe’s cross was side-footed in by Ashikodi.
The goal seemed to send Hereford to sleep and only a last-ditch challenge from Graham deflected Ashikodi’s effort over after Pell gave the ball way badly in midfield.
Elder was only inches from getting on the end of another Ashikodi shot on 61 minutes as Ebbsfleet started to claw back into the game.
Hereford, though, started to regain control and Pell warmed Edwards’ fingers with a drive from 25 yards.
And Edwards did well to palm away a deflected Canham effort for a corner.
In a virtual repeat on 78 minutes, Edwards dived to push a Canham effort out after good work by Ryan Bowman and Watkins.
New acquisition Smikle got an assist with his first touch on 88 minutes.
The winger’s corner was met by the diving Bowman and his header went into the net off an upright.
Hereford’s dominance, however, was reduced in the final minute when Howe went on a fine run to create a goal for himself, drilling a shot into the corner of the net after a 30-yard dash.
Hereford: 4-4-2: Hanford; Gallinagh, Graham, Townsend, Carruthers; Watkins (Evans 79), Clist, Pell, Clucas (Smikle 88); Canham, Nichols (Bowman 73). Subs not used: Bittner, Sammons.
Ebbsfleet: 4-4-2: Edwards; Stone (Azeez 82), Howe, Ada, Lorraine; Bellamy, Barrett, Phipp, Enver-Marum (Walsh 46); Elder, Ashikodi (Greenhalgh 68). Subs not used: Blake, McNeill.
Referee: Brett Huxtable (Devon).
Attendance: 1,906 (inclouding 42 from Ebbsfleet) Goals: Watkins, 27 min, 1-0; Canham, 36 min, 2-0; Carruthers, 48 min, 3-0; Ashikodi, 50 min, 3-1; Bowman, 88 min, 4-1; Howe, 90 min, 4-2.
Red card: Ebbsfleet: Bellamy, foul, 10 min; foul, 45 min.
Yellow cards: Hereford – Clucas, kicking ball away, 77 min; Ebbsfleet – Lorraine, foul, 12 min;
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