Young guns blast Boro in Sky clash
Hereford United 2 Stevenage Boro 0 MARCUS CRAWLEY reports IT was largely men against boys but the young Bulls won through in Monday night s televised clash. Hereford s two teenage strikers, Andy Williams and Stuart Fleetwood, struck either side of half-ti
Hereford United 2 Stevenage Boro 0
MARCUS CRAWLEY reports
IT was largely men against boys but the young Bulls won through in Monday night's televised clash.
Hereford's two teenage strikers, Andy Williams and Stuart Fleetwood, struck either side of half-time to boost their hopes of clinching runners-up spot in the Conference behind the champions-elect Accrington Stanley.
And to compound Boro's woes, Justin Gregory was red carded, their NINTH sending off of the league season so far.
Boro's appalling disciplinary record was not helped as three other players - Adam Miller, Jefferson Louis and Matt Hocking - also picked up cautions.
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The first 45 minutes must have sent a lot of the viewing public to sleep.
Defences were dominant with Hereford's young strikeforce getting precious little joy while Louis and Dino Maamria also toiled with no success.
One of the 'veterans' of the youthful Bulls line-up, whose average age was 22, was 28-year-old Boro old boy Simon Travis.
He was caught out by George Boyd's crossfield ball in the seventh minute which picked out Miller, whose low cross was volleyed wide at the near post by Ollie Berquez.
Miller had a long-range effort easily saved by on-loan keeper Wayne Brown, while Hereford's sole threat in the opening half hour was a tame header from Tamika Mkandawire straight at Alan Julian.
Fleetwood and Williams showed their potential when they linked up well in a rare moment of threat, a combination of Gregory and his skipper Rob Quinn making a vital block on the latter.
Boyd was generally being starved of the ball but still looked dangerous on the rare occasions he had it, his surprise effort from distance pushed around the post by Brown.
The sides looked destined to be deadlocked at the break but referee Rob Lewis had other ideas.
With the three minutes of added time already up, Ronnie Henry was harshly penalised for an innocuous challenge.
The decision proved costly as Andy Ferrell's free-kick was headed into the six-yard box by Dean Beckwith and Williams volleyed home.
Miller and Boyd surprisingly switched wings for the second period, and Boyd's swerving snapshot almost deceived Brown who produced a flying save to just keep the ball out.
Perhaps the pivotal 60 seconds of the entire evening arrived five minutes into the new half as the Bulls scored their second.
A throw-in was not cleared by the Boro defence and Fleetwood pounced to bury a low shot past Julian.
The two-goal advantage was nearly short-lived when Louis, with his back to goal, turned and curled a shot against the foot of Brown's post.
Hereford penalty claims were ignored as Williams made a theatrical dive when Quinn tugged his shirt just inside the area.
Eric Obinna, on for Berquez, shot hopelessly wide following a clever ball by Louis.
The mountain to climb became insurmountable 20 minutes from time when Gregory justifiably received his second caution of the half for hauling down the pacy Daryl Taylor.
Jon Nurse, whose time on the pitch was restricted by injury, replaced Louis and he immediately showed what the team had been lacking.
He was key to the move which saw Brown quickly off his line to snuff out the threat of Obinna.
Hereford's one-man advantage began to tell as Craig Stanley's spectacular volley flew just over the Boro bar.
Then Julian did well to save a stinging Williams shot after the youngster had outfoxed Quinn.
The skipper was sacrificed five minutes from time, in place of Darryn Stamp, as Boro appeared to go two at the back!
Even this drastic measure did not produce any reward although Nurse continued to look threatening.
Boro boss Graham Westley said afterwards: "Our game plan worked fairly in the first half and we were quite happy."
Referring to Henry's alleged foul in first-half stoppage time and Gregory's red card, Westley continued: "Decisions can change games and they did in this game.
"Even after Justin went off, the players did not give up and continued to carve out some chances."
Hereford manager/chairman Graham Turner focused on Boro's physical approach to the game.
Turner said: "Stevenage were physical and our young lads coped well with that. We didn't play great and had to grind out the win.