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Full-time: Alfreton Town 0 Hereford United 3
HEREFORD are up to third in the Blue Square Premier after a superb win at Alfreton.
Goals from Marley Watkins, Sean Canham and Tom Nicholls secured a comfortable win after Dan Hanford did excellently to keep the Bulls in the game in the first half.
Hereford were without the suspended Marlon Jackson and injured Luke Graham for their first trip to the Impact Arena in seven seasons.
Stefan Stam deputised for Graham at the back alongside Michael Townsend who, happily, had made a rapid recovery from the knee injury he sustained at Tamworth.
In attack, Tom Nicholls was given a full debut alongside Sean Canham with Ryan Bowman still not risked, even on the bench, after a leg injury.
In midfield, there was also a change with Ashley Sammons preferred to Simon Clist, who dropped to the bench.
Hereford produced a neat move in the early stages with the ball worked to Sam Clucas whose run into the area was intercepted by Theo Streete.
Marley Watkins then raced through the midfield and sent in a low drive which Phil Barnes had to dive to save.
With Hereford showing promise in attack, Nicholls tried to chip Barnes who had to leap to push the ball behind for the first corner.
At the other end, a volley from Anton Brown bobbled past Dan Hanford’s left-hand post.
On eight minutes, Canham’s flick was seized on by Nicholls in the area with Barnes having to do well to get the ball clear when it seemed as if the loan striker was in.
Alfreton’s principal attacking weapon appeared to be Leigh Franks’long throw and, from one these in the 15th minute, a flicked header from among the massed ranks in the 18-yard box brought a fine diving save from Hanford.
Hereford struck back immediately and Sammons sent a 20-yarder drifting just inches wide.
On 18 minutes, Stam had to put the ball behind for the first home corner but Townsend rose highest to clear Simon Russell’s flag-kick.
Alfreton’s bench were on their feet demanding a penalty when Hanford came off his line to punish clear and left Paul Clayton prone on the ground. But referee Sebastian Stonebridge signalled no foul.
Hanford was quickly off his line in the next attack to deny Nathan Arnold as he raced through.
But the keeper could only stand and watch on 24 minutes when Josh Law curled a free-kick just wide of the goal.
At the other end, Canham mistimed his jump to meet Nicholls’ cross and had to be content with a corner.
Dan Bradley fired a shot narrowly wide from 20 yards as Alfreton tried to make the most of their pressure.
Another Franks long-throw brought a flick-on and Brown’s overhead kick flew over.
Hereford were producing the better football and a good move saw Harry Pell find Nicholls whose crisply-struck drive was not far from giving the Bulls the lead.
Townsend produced a fine block on 36 minutes when Arnold almost got round the back of the Bulls defence.
Five minutes before the break, Hereford had a good chance when Watkins was brought down on the edge of the area.
Sammons got some curl on the free-kick but not quite enough to find the top corner.
Two minutes before the interval, Hanford had to make two fine saves in quite succession.
First he pushed away a bullet drive from Arnold and then dived to parry a close-rangeheader from Clayton.
There was an early booking for Russell in the second half when he brought a run from Watkins to an abrupt halt.
Ten minutes into the second period, Hereford produced an excellent move to take the lead.
Canham and Nichols were involved in the build-up with Nicholls supplying the cross for Watkins to volley in off the bar.
Moments later, Watkins was only inches away from turning in another cross from Nicholls.
Hereford extended their lead on 64 minutes.
Sammons’ cross from the left was met by Townsend whose header was pushed out by keeper Barnes but only as far as Canham who couldn’t miss.
With Hereford looking to boost their goal difference, Pell curled a shot just wide, moments later.
Alfreton re-grouped and pushed forward again with Hanford producing an excellent block with his feet to keep out an Arnold drive.
Hereford went three ahead on 68 minutes.
Watkins slipped a pass through to Nicholls who showed excellent composure to slide the ball, one-on-one, past Barnes.
Canham had an 81st minute effort saved as the Bulls sought to extend their lead still further.
With seven minutes remaining, home substitute Tom Denton, who had been on just seven minutes, was sent off for a horrid high challenge on Watkins.
But Hereford’s attacking impetus continued and James McQuilkin drew a fine save from Barnes with a fierce drive.
Hereford: 4-4-2: Hanford; Gallinagh, Townsend, Stam, Carruthers; Watkins, Pell, Sammons (Evans 70), Clucas (McQuilkin 74); Canham, Nicholls (Clist 82). Subs not used: Bittner, Dalibard.
Alfreton: 4-4-2: Barnes, Streete, Quinn, Franks, Franklin; Law, Brown, Bradley,Russell (Tomlinson 64); Arnold, Clayton (Denton 77). Subs not used: Taylor, Meadows, Wilson.
Referee: Sebastian Stockbridge (Tyne and Wear).
Attendance: 690 (including 213 from Hereford).
Goals: Watkins, 55 min, 0-1; Canham, 64 min, 0-2; Nicholls, 68 min, 0-3.
Red card: Alfreton – Denton, 84 min, serious foul play.
Yellow cards: Alfreton – Streete, 34 min, foul; Russell, 49 min, foul.