A couple of late strikes were enough to squeeze Hereford United through to the second round of the F.A. Cup at Edgar Street this evening. Local rivals Shrewsbury Town were the opponents in the first round replay following a no-score draw at Gay Meadow in the original tie.
Hereford were once again without loan duo John Eustace and Neil MacKenzie, and also striker Stuart Fleetwood missed out. Graham Turner decided to leave young striker Andy Williams on the bench though, and so there was a suprise start for Gareth Sheldon in attack alongside Tim Sills, who recovered from a head injury on the weekend.
The lack of games between the front two was evident as United failed to threaten in attack. That said, Wayne Brown in the Hereford goal had little to do, though Town did come close to breaking the deadlock on more than one occassion. Tamika Mkandawire, at the heart of a strong Bulls backline, had to be on hand to hook clear as David Edwards drilled the ball towards the lurking Andy Cooke at the far post. The Shrews went on from this to enjoy a spell of domination, and it was Neil Ashton who went mighty close with a low effort across the goal face from the left of the box.
Rob Purdie collected a yellow card on twenty five minutes as he lost the ball and then held back the attacker, as he threatened to burst through on goal. Ben Davies saw a glorious chance slide wide of the far post, similarly to Aston's effort before Davies crossed from a free kick to the near post, where Cooke thumped a header over the cross bar unchallenge. Brown was called into action before the interval as he made a low save to deny Cooke, who'd made his own space in the box having received the ball with his back to goal.
United came out a different side in the second half, and it was much needed as Shrewsbury's defence had an easy time in the opening forty five. The pressure soon turned into chances, but it was still set plays that the hosts were looking most likely from. Mkandawire got a flick on to the back post, and it took an outstretched leg by Gavin Cowan to stop Phil Gulliver getting a shot away. A Purdie free kick then made its way to Luke Webb at the far post, but his left footed shot was easily stopped by Scott Shearer.
Shrewsbury tried to freshen things up with the introduction of Derek Asamoah on sixty five, but it was Turner's change a minute later that made the difference. Williams replaced the ineffective Sheldon, and it gave The Bulls just the lift they needed. Gulliver had a fantastic chance to open up his account, but he blazed over at the far post as a long free kick picked him out in space, before the referee made a decision that could have changed the course of the game. Andy Ferrell, who'd been at the centre of United's second half charge, raced back to try to stop a Shrews attack through Davies. With the ball way in front of him, Ferrell simply hacked down the man, and was very fortunate to only pick up a booking.
Shrewsbury had the best chance of the game with seven minutes to go, just three minutes after the introduction of Leo Fortune-West. Dean Beckwith slipped while in possession, and Asamoah capitalised and raced away towards goal. His low drive was pushed away by Brown, but into the path of Fortune-West at the far post. With the goal gaping, somehow Mkandawire came in with a perfectly timed last-ditch tackle to save his side.
It proved to be even more vital, as United took the lead two minutes later. Williams, troublesome for the defence since his introduction, was fouled on the very edge of the box as he tried to latch onto Alan Connell's bal foward. It was Connell who took responsibility, and curled the ball brilliantly just inside the post to the 'keeper's left, delighting the home fans in a crowd of 4,224.
If that goal wasn't good enough, then the one that followed with two minutes to go definately was. Purdie played a ball down the right to Williams, who advanced into the box using some trickery on the way.
Webb's goal - picture by Andy Compton of the Hereford Journal
He then knocked the ball back to the (right) edge of the box, where Webb ran onto it, struck the ball first time and it flew straight into the far top corner of the net for 2-0. Cue wild celebrations all around Edgar Street, except in the away end where most of the 917 away fans were on their way home.
It turned out to be a good result for Hereford, but the first half way definately a cause for concern. With very little success going forward, Turner will definately be looking to make changes for the trip to Boston on the weekend. Eustace and MacKenzie will both be avaliable again, but Webb and Ferrell will definately have given the Gaffer food for though with their second half displays. It will be no suprise though if Williams returns to the starting eleven, as he inspired Hereford to victory. The Bulls can now look forward to a second round tie at Edgar Street with Port Vale of League One.
HUFC: Brown, Beckwith, Gulliver, Mkandawire, Jeannin, Purdie, Ferrell, Webb, Connell, Sills, Sheldon. Subs: McClenahan, Travis, Thompson, Rose, Williams.
STFC: Shearer, Herd, Cowan, Burton, Ashton, Edwards, Drummond, Hall, Davies, Cooke, Symes.Subs: MacKenzie, Jones, Sorvel, Asamoah, Fortune-West.