Stockport County made easy pickings of a dodgy Bulls' backline to overcome Hereford United 4-1 at Edgeley Park this afternoon. The hosts took a lead within 15 seconds of the start with Dominic Blizzard nipping into finish with ease. United managed to level through Sam Hewson before Matty McNeil headed from a corner to restore the lead. In the second-half, County dominated against a lacklustre Hereford side and added two more goals through Matty Mainwaring and Leon McSweeney.
With Kris Taylor suspended after picking up his fifth card of the season against Walsall, Richard Jackson was bought in at right-back with Richard Rose moving to left-back. Ben Smith made way in central midfield for Hewson, who had recovered from a groin strain. There was no place in the County team for Jimmy McNulty, who is set to leave the club on Monday. Two former Hereford full-backs were included; Robbie Threlfall was preferred to start with Michael Rose having to be content with a place on the bench.
Stockport kicked off and a long-ball from Johnny Mullins up field was completely mis-kicked by Karl Broadhurst allowing in Blizzard who made no mistake firing across Craig Samson to ensure a horror start for Hereford. There may have been a bobble which deceived Broadhurst, with the pitch causing problems for both teams throughout after Sale's rugby match last night. Oli Johnson received a pass from Paul Turnbull and ran at Rose, before firing towards the near-post forcing Samson to push the ball behind the post. Turnbull himself fancied his chances sending in a 20 yard shot which bounced before going wide. Hereford's first opportunity fell to Andy Williams, who turned his marker on the edge of the box but couldn't hit the target with a left-foot strike. McSweeney hit a free-kick just past Samson's post before the visitors shocked Stockport with an equaliser.
A pass down the right-wing allowed Jennison Myrie-Williams to out-pace and outmuscle Threlfall before running into the box; he cut back onto his left-foot before picking out Hewson, who controlled before poking past Owain fon Williams from 12 yards. Threlfall soon made up for his lapse in defensive duties at the other end as he provided the assist for County's second. It had followed a sliced effort going wide from the Liverpool loanee as County won a corner; Threlfall swung it in at pace and it made its way to the unmarked McNeil who nodded in from close-range. Although it was at the other end of the ground to the visiting supporters, it looked like poor marking and question-marks must be asked again over Samson's ability to take crosses. Myrie-Williams showed a good turn of pace down the wing before dragging a left-foot shot well-wide. Just before half-time Turnbull headed over from another Threlfall corner.
The second-half was fairly routine for County who dominated possession and played around Hereford. They were rewarded for their play with a third goal when a Tommy Rowe corner wasn't cleared and Mainwaring somehow managed to weave his way past two players inside the crowded box before shooting into the corner. Hewson sent a snapshot half-volley wide after Matty Done had crossed from the left before both sides made a sub. Simon Johnson was introduced for Williams, who again had a disappointing afternoon whilst M. Rose replaced Threlfall. Rowe's burst into the box after picking up a ball from a loose header saw him force Samson to make a close-range block to stop a goalbound left-foot effort.
The hosts made sure of their win with a fourth goal in the 76th minute with yet more poor defending contributing to the goal. M. Rose was found on the left and he crossed into the box; Samson came to claim but instead punched out to McSweeney who controlled before sending a relatively weak shot goalwards and it ended up in the back of the net after Broadhurst failed to make, what looked like, a routine block. Late subs were made by both teams, which really dampened the end of the game. James Vincent and Danny Pilkington came on for County in place of McSweeney and Blizzard, whilst Hereford gave Sam Gwynne and Dean Beckwith a run-out in place of Done and Broadhurst respectively. In the closing moments, Samson dived to his left to save a placed shot by Pilkington but it was the last of the action as Stockport passed their way to the end of the match.
It was a crushing defeat for United, who never came close to matching their opponents. It had little to do with Stockport's quality, but more to do so with Hereford's lacklustre approach; defensive mistakes coupled with the midfield's inability to close-down led to the result. Up top, there was little which offered excitement for United with Williams again failing to deliver on a number of half-decent openings. Next up for Hereford is the painfully long trip to Carlisle on Tuesday, lets hope it'll be a better journey back from Cumbria than it was from Stockport.
Stockport: fon-Williams, McSweeney, Mullins, Raynes, Threlfall, Turnbull, Blizzard, Mainwaring, Rowe, Johnson, McNeil.
Subs: Pilkington, Rose, Dicker, Thompson, Vincent.
Hereford: Samson, Jackson, Broadhurst, Gowling, Rose, Myrie-Williams, Diagouraga, Hewson, Done, Guinan, Williams.
Subs: Veiga, Beckwith, Gwynne, Smith, Johnson.