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Sunday, December 28, 2008

2008 ends with defeat

Whilst the end of 2007 ended with a win at arguably League Two's biggest team Bradford City, today's trip to Leicester City resulted in a 2-1 defeat for Hereford United. A bumper crowd of 22,920 were present at the Walkers Stadium as Steve Howard knocked the home side into an early lead. The lead was doubled in the second period by Andy King before Karl Broadhurst pulled one back late on.

Two changes were made following the Boxing Day draw with Tranmere Rovers; Broadhurst replaced Dean Beckwith to partner former Bournemouth team-mate Joshua Gowling at the heart of the defence and Andy Williams made way for Nick Chadwick up top. Leicester included a wealth of talent and experience in their line-up; David Martin and Jack Hobbs are on loan from Liverpool, whilst joint League One top goalscorer Matty Fryatt, subject of much interest from higher graded sides, partnered former Derby County striker Howard up front.

United had the first shot of the day with Matty Done firing into the body of Martin from the left-hand side before the hosts started to stamp their authority on the game. King sliced over from long-range whilst soon after Kris Taylor made a pivotal block to stop a goalbound Matt Oakley effort following strong wing-play from Lloyd Dyer. The opening goal came just 10 minutes into the game after a pass found Fryatt, and his attempted pass took a lucky deflection into the path of Howard who steered the ball into the net past Craig Samson. A strong forward run from the unchallenged Mark Davies saw the Wolves loanee drag a shot wide before some excellent flowing football should have resulted in a second goal for Leicester. Howard switched play to Fryatt, who had drifted out to the wing and he picked out the forward run of Oakley who shot first-time forcing a decent reflex save from Samson to push the ball away fror a corner.

Former MK Dons winger Dyer shot past the post after Hereford failed to clear a cross fully before they managed some opportunities themselves. Taylor sent a 60 yard cross field pass to Lionel Ainsworth, who delightfully controlled before testing Martin with a snapshot half-volley. Chadwick rose well to meet an Ainsworth corner from the right but saw his effort drop wide whilst Steve Guinan also won an attacking header in the box, this time from a deep Richard Rose free-kick but Martin held on with ease. Late on in the half, Joe Mattock replaced Bruno Berner, perhaps as the young Englishman was better equipped to deal with the threat of Ainsworth. Moments before the half-time whistle, Samson made a fine save to deny Fryatt in behind the defence by rushing out to block an effort from the striker after a flick-on by Howard had caused problems.

Nigel Pearson opted to replace Fryatt at half-time, with the experienced Paul Dickov replacing him. The former Man City striker tried his luck with a lob after collecting another Howard flick but his effort failed to trouble Samson. Graham Turner introduced Williams up top to give the City defence something different to think about with Chadwick making way. A strong forward run from Dyer caused problems for Rose, but the winger sliced his shot harmlessly wide. A trip to Gowling allowed Leicester a chance with a free-kick; King stepped up and forced Samson to make a diving save to divert the ball around the post. Oakley then tried to place a shot from 25 yards but failed to hit the target. A superbly weighted through ball from Ainsworth presented a good opportunity for Guinan but he didn't quite have the pace to escape the pressure of the tracking defenders and his left-foot shot was straight at Martin.

King shot over from long-range after Howard had set him up whilst at the other end, Williams' cross from the left eventually made its way to Rose but the full-back struck tamely past the near post. The second goal of the game all started with yet another Howard flick causing havoc in the Bulls' defence; the ball was eventually cleared out as far as King who shot into the far corner past Samson to the delight of the home crowd. Yet, eight minutes later Hereford sprang a surprise by netting their fifth away goal of the league season. Ainsworth sent a free-kick from the right towards the back-post and Broadhurst was on hand to send a bullet header past Martin. It made for a nervy finish for the league leaders although Oakley and Howard both send half-chances wide. In the final moments of normal time, a push on Williams presented Taylor with a chance but the versatile player's left-footed curling free-kick dropped agonisingly past the post. Stoppage time saw City sub Nicky Adams, who had replaced Dyer, booked for a dive when looking for a penalty whilst a late Ainsworth corner came to nothing.

Leicester are the best that League One has to offer, and Hereford today were by no means disgraced. The hosts passed the ball around well whilst having some real threats up top, but United at times showed they can mix it with the big boys playing some neat football themselves. With January looming, The Bulls need to bring in a couple of new faces; a striker is still a must if they are to give themselves a chance of surviving the drop. Next up is the visit of Leeds United in six days time.

Hereford: Samson, Rose, Broadhurst, Gowling, Taylor, Ainsworth, Smith, Diagouraga, Done, Chadwick, Guinan.

Subs: Veiga, Beckwith, Gwynne, Johnson, Williams.

Leicester: Martin, Gilbert, Morrison, Hobbs, Berner, Oakley, Davies, King, Dyer, Howard, Fryatt.

Subs: Cisak, Edworthy, Mattock, Adams, Dickov.