Blue Square Bet Premier Division
Alfreton Town 0
Hereford United 3
Alfreton Town suffered their first home league defeat of the season after an encouraging first half, with three goals in a devastating 13-minute spell heralding their downfall.
But the outcome at the Impact Arena on Saturday could have been so different had a 20th minute penalty been awarded, after Paul Clayton was clattered to the ground by both a Hereford defender and goalkeeper Dan Hanford as the latter attempted to punch clear.
There was further distress for Alfreton when Tom Denton was given his marching orders for a dangerous tackle on Watkins just six minutes after taking the field, and he will now miss the weekend’s trip to Barrow.
The Reds were forced to go into the game without the services of key defender Darran Kempson who was suffering from a calf strain, so Adam Quinn made his first start at the heart of the defence as well as taking over the captaincy.
A long confident run by Marley Watkins brought Alfreton keeper Phil Barnes into action when he held his fourth minute low drive from the edge of the area, then moments later Barnes had to turn behind a tricky deep cross from Tom Nicholls.
Anton Brown dragged a 20 yard volley wide as the Reds had their first sniff of goal in the seventh minute, but it was Barnes in action again 60 seconds later with a vital touch as Nicholls ran on to Hanford’s huge clearance.
Quinn’s header was held from a Leigh Franks’ cross on 12 minutes, then two minutes further on a Franks’ long throw saw Hanford having to palm away a Brown header.
A long run down the right by Josh Law saw Nathan Arnold fire wide after Simon Russell had pulled back Law’s 18th minute cross, then Arnold latched on to a wayward back header from Ashley Sammons only for Hanford to hack clear.
Dan Bradley’s effort from 30 yards only just missed the target on 29 minutes, but it needed two excellent saves by Hanford to prevent Alfreton taking a 44th minute lead.
Arnold had taken a return pass from Paul Clayton before seeing his stinging angled drive saved, then Clayton’s firm back header from a Theo Streete cross was also repelled by the Bulls’ keeper, this time at point-blank range.
Hereford took a 55th minute lead following a neat four-man move that culminated with Watkins despatching an angled volley in from eight yards off the underside of the crossbar.
The visitors added a second eight minutes later when Sean Canham scored from close range after Barnes had superbly parried Michael Townsend’s header from a byline free kick.
Arnold had a shot beaten away by Hanford but Nichols scored Hereford’s third goal in the 68th minute, after being put through by Watkins for a clinical finish.
Barnes had to produce another save ten minutes from time by parrying from Canham, then in the dying seconds the keeper had to tip over a stinging angled drive from James McQuilkin.
Alfreton Town (4-4-2): Barnes; Streete, Quinn, Franks, Franklin; Law, Bradley, Brown, Russell (Tomlinson 65); Clayton (Denton 77), Arnold.
Substitutes not used:
Hereford United (4-4-2): Hanford, Gallinagh, Townsend, Carruthers, Stam, Pell, Watkins, Clucas (McQuilkin, 74), Sammons (Evans, 70), Canham, Nicholls (Clise, 82).
Substitutes not used: Bittner, Dalibard.
Referee: Sebastion Stockbridge.
Attendance: 690 (inc. 213 from Hereford).
Goals: Hereford United - Watkins 55, Canham 64, Nicholls 68.
Yellow cards: Alfreton Town - Streete (34, foul on Clucas); Russell (49, foul on Watkins).
Hereford United: Red card: Tom Denton (Alfreton Town, 83, two-footed challenge).