Hereford United dropped two vital points away at lowly Canvey Island this afternoon, but it was not just the loss of the points which will worry manager Graham Turner. The game was marred by a challenge on Adam Stansfield, that left him with a suspected fractured cheekbone. Also, the dismissal of Alex Jeannin in the second half could, in theory, lead to a five match ban.
The game took a while to produce a first effort on goal but it was the hosts who provided it, although John Keelings half volley didn't trouble. Stansfield was first to threaten for The Bulls when he latched onto Jeannin's ball in behind the defence, but the strikers effort was turned behind by a recovering centre half. However, United managed to get their noses in front soon after, and it was Stansfield's strike partner Stuart Fleetwood who broke the deadlock. Following a surging run from the ex-Cardiff City forward, he played a neat one-two with Stansfield and then placed the ball low into the back of the net, although it was helped on its way by the goalpost.
The lead was short lived though, and three minutes later The Gulls found an equaliser. Kezie Ibe had got goalside of Tamika Mkandawire, and the Bulls skipper tugged him to the ground resulting in a penalty kick for the hosts. Neil Gregory made no mistake from the spot, sending Wayne Brown the wrong way. The shock injury, inflicted by John Kennedy, meant that Rob Purdie replaced Stansfield with five normal minutes of the half remaining in which time Jeannin saw a low drive saved, Nicky Nicolau's shot needed to be tipped round the post by Richard McKinney and at the other end Brown denied Mario Noto's free kick.
United had the better of the opening exchanges in the second period, but failed to force McKinney into a save, although Andy Ferrell, instrumental throughout, was just put off enough by a defender to stop him from meeting a perfect cross from Fleetwood. Then, with eleven minutes gone of the half, Jeannin received his marching orders in rather unclear circumstances. He was firstly booked, it is assumed, for a foul, which seemed a fair enough challenge, and then was shown a straight red card for, it is thought, foul and abusive language.
Canvey now had, understandedly, renewed optimism and Noto became more and more dangerous for them. Brown had to pull off a great save to deny Noto almost immediately after the dismissal before United had the ball in the net for a second time. Craig Stanley sparked a counter attack, laying the ball into Andy Williams. He was held up by a defender but slipped the ball into Fleetwood who had the simple task of tucking the ball away beyond the reach of McKinney. However, the linesman on the far side adjudged Fleetwood to be offside and the goal did not count.
Nicolau was sacrificed as Simon Travis came on to play at left back but he gifted Noto a golden opportunity with a first, misjudged touch but luckily Noto's shot was wide. Ibe had two good chances on the turn in quick sucession, the first being superbly tipped away by Brown and the second being smashed over the bar, both from close range. Fleetwood, who took a knock from 'keeper McKinney was replaced by Daryl Taylor with eighteen minutes to go, and Williams took up the lone role in attack. Mkandawire almost made amends for giving away the penalty when he fired just wide on the turn, following Purdie's delivery while Stanley also saw a shot saved as United pushed for the winner.
And it almost came right at the death, in the three minutes of injury time. Stanley's corner from the right fell to Dean Beckwith at the far post, who smashed a half volley in from little more than five yards out, but somehow McKinney got a hand to it and diverted it over the crossbar. Still though, there was another chance for the Bulls through Andy Ferrell. In the final moments he worked himself some space twenty odd yards from goal, unleashed a powerful low effort that seemed destined for the bottom corner, but again, somehow, McKinney got his outstretched fingertips to the ball and managed to, just, turn it around the post.
So it ended a goal apeice, thanks to some stern and, at times, desperate defending by the hosts, a penalty kick, a bad injury, a sending off, and some very dubious decisions by the one linesman. The result though, pleased the majority of the crowd of 784, of which around 200 were Hereford, a very few, apparently, were Accrington Stanley, and the rest were Canvey Island fans.
HUFC: Brown, Green, Mkandawire, Beckwith, Jeannin, Williams, Ferrell, Stanley, Nicolau, Stansfield, Fleetwood. Subs: Travis, Mawson, Purdie, Taylor, Gwynne.
CIFC: McKinney, Chenery, Ward, McGhee, Duffy, Noto, Kennedy, Sedgemore, Keeling, Ibe, Gregory. Subs: Potter, Dolan, Tait, Clarke, Minton.