Notts put up a red sheet for the Bulls

Last updated : 27 January 2007 By Paul Smith

Despite taking an early lead through Jason Lee, Notts were behind at half-time with Trent McClenahan and Steve Guinan hitting back for the hosts.

Lee again scored to equalise with a quarter of the game left, but almost immediately Guinan restored Hereford's advantage, to see Notts heading home pointless.

Thompson... Many headaches
After the success of the 4-3-3 formation employed for last weeks 5-2 win over Torquay United, Notts boss Steve Thompson kept faith with the system, despite losing Junior Mendes and Stephen Hunt to injury during the game.

Dan Gleeson replaced Hunt, with Gary Silk performing at left back and Gleeson as a right-back. Andy Parkinson, who delighted from the bench last week, replaced Mendes in a straight swap as the right striker. Notts were still without David Pipe, sitting out the second of his three match suspension.

Form wise, Notts entered the tie on the back of two victories, buoyed by moving to within a goal of a Playoff place. Hereford, who sat above the Magpies after defeating them in the return fixture at Meadow Lane 1-0, sat in fourteenth, four points adrift of Notts and with just one win in six games.

Dan Martin had the first attempt on goal after three minutes, but his audacious long range effort never troubled Hereford goalkeeper Wayne Brown.

On the seventh minute Matt Somner crossed well from a left wing position and Jason Lee, as he so often does, rose highest to head home into the bottom corner of the net.

However, just two minutes later Trent McClenahan equalised after Ben Smith slid a ball against the post allowing McClenahan to powerfully finished.

Hereford responded brilliantly to their early deficit, piling the pressure on with some direct football causing Mike Edwards and Alan White problems.

Somner... Great cross gave Lee easy chance

Simon Travis was a consistent thorn in Notts' defence with willing and long runs. Gleeson, on his return to the side was put under the most pressure, and after the former Cambridge defender lost his footing, Travis got in behind and crossed dangerously. Fortunately for Notts, and particularly Gleeson, the onrushing strikers were clearly offside.

Alan Connell stroked well to force a brave defensive header from Notts, forcing the first corner of the game.

Jay Smith and Somner were being overran in midfield as Hereford's 3-5-2 formation overpowered Notts' 4-3-3. Their packed midfield allowing them to dominate the proceedings with Notts being pegged back despite their impressive start.

As with Notts' highest league win last season, it appeared there would be plenty of goals in the game. Both sides looked more comfortable on the attack, and the vociferous home following were clearly passionate for an attractive attacking performance from their players.

Dan Martin had a good claim for a penalty after 25 minutes when he was felled as he darted into the area. He was of the opinion that Notts should have had only their second spot kick of the season, Martin missing the only previous attempt at Barnet, but the referee waved the shouts away, much to the disgust of Captain White who was given a severe talking to by referee Ray Olivier.

It wasn't long before the obvious pressure telled for the hosts, as debutant Steve Guinan raced through the middle of the tactically flawed defence to finish easily past Kevin Pilkington to give Hereford a thoroughly deserved lead.. Once again Ben Smith had assisted the goal, and Notts couldn't get a grips on another of Graham Turner's debutants, signed in the week from non-league Weymouth.

It seemed quite incredulous that Notts had led early on, with Hereford putting in a performance of the highest quality, consistently pulverising the Notts rearguard, Gleeson in particular at fault being torn apart by Travis and Guinan.

Overrun in midfield, Thompson showed no signs of changing the tactics, forcing Notts into evasive action. Hereford could quite easily have scored more, with Notts in danger of disappearing without a whimper.

Gleeson... Ran ragged on his return
Notts offered their visiting army brief hope when Parkinson was gifted an opportunity out of nothing, but his effort, despite appearing to take a deflection, was eased wide of the goal for a Hereford goal-kick.

Ben Smith then troubled the backline again, finishing past Pilkington, though his joy was short-lived as the linesman spotted an offside. Indeed, Turner's outfit were consistently pulled for offside, though you got the feeling they may get some leeway sooner or later, such were Notts riding their luck.

With Notts' brightest performers in recent weeks Lawrie Dudfield and Jay Smith looking out of sorts, Notts failed to trouble, and Jay Smith looped Notts' first corner of the half, in stoppage time, straight into Brown's hands.

As the second half started, it was in familiar fashion with Hereford posing the problems. Pilkington was caught off guard outside of his area and unable to handle, only just managing to get himself out of difficulty under pressure, by clearing away. Any mistake would have been fatal.

As the attendance of 3,280 was given, 396 making the trip from Nottingham, Notts worried the hosts through Jay Smith. Smith tackled McClenahan in the midfield, and released Dudfield who returned the pass. Smith entered the final third and fizzed a shot just wide. It was certainly better from the now permanent Notts man, following his signing yesterday after a successful two month spell, who had been overran in the first half.

Lee became the second Magpie to attempt a shot, after a decent move involving Martin and Parkinson. Brown comfortable held Lee's effort though, and set Hereford on another attack.

Edwards escaped further punishment after his earlier booking when he felled Guinan to the derision of the hosts fans.

As the second half progressed, Notts appeared to be showing signs of a return to form, lifting the travelling fans' hopes of an equaliser.

Nevertheless the next opportunity came on Pilkington's goal, with Hereford again getting in behind the back line, only to see a certain goal ruled back for a definite offside, Steve Jennings this time the hosts' guilty party.

Silk... His cross highlighted a good performance

Notts heeded the warning, an improvement noted and makeshift left-back Silk bombed forward and linked up with Parkinson before whipping in a beautiful cross that Lee met with a towering header into the roof of Brown's net. His twelfth league goal of the season, and fifth in three games, put Lee fourth highest goalscorer in the division - so much for missing an out and out goalscorer. He also has a cup goal to his name.

Indeed, goalscoring isn't the problem at the moment, defending, particularly slack marking, certainly is, as Hereford regained their lead only five minutes later. As in the first half, Notts failed to build on their goal, and showed their naivety to be pegged back again.

Guinan, one time Nottingham Forest man, and a Notts target during the summer, again punished poor defending to slam home after a good first touch. He had crashed the ball into the roof of the net, and shot the Bulls back into a deserved lead, with twenty minutes remaining.

Ian Ross is set to return to Notts for the home match with Barnet on Tuesday, and the delivery of his set-pieces during his first six month spell has clearly been missed during his three game absence, with both Jay Smith and Martin consistently failing to find a Notts shirt from dead ball situations.

Martin was replaced by Jake Sheridan for his first appearance since the home defeat to Macclesfield Town over a month and a half ago. In that game Sheridan entered as a substitute and was then substituted himself. After some choice words to Thompson on that occasion, Sheridan had another chance to prove himself, particularly with his contract up at the end of the season and only five first team appearances, prior to today.

Sheridan immediately involved himself, attempting a long range effort that failed to trouble the target.

Gleeson then joined Edwards on a caution after highlighting his frustration by showing dissent after being penalised for an innocuous foul. Guinan remained Hereford's only name in the referee's book.

As time ran out, Notts' main threat continued to come from Silk who consistently forced the issue down the left, without much help from his team-mates.

Mendes made an appearance for Notts, replacing Gleeson, as a 86th minute substitute. Mendes, suffering with medial ligament damage, is unfit to play ninety minutes but the hope was that he could manage a successful final five as Notts carried the game to the Bulls.

Silk moved to right-back, where he continued to make forays into the Hereford half. His cross fell to Parkinson who had half a chance in the box but failed to properly connect with his effort. Silk tried to revitalise the move, aided by Somner and Smith, but Brown eventually gathered for Hereford, whose fans had their hearts in their mouths for a split second.

The fourth official indicated just three minutes of additional time as Notts searched for a leveller, with Hereford forcing every man back to defend their 3-2 advantage.

Lee... Close to a hat-trick
A melee took place as Dudfield, Lee, Somner and Smith pushed balls towards the Hereford goal mouth, Somner's effort in particular threatening, with only a goal line clearance preventing Notts an equaliser through the former Brentford man.

Dudfield, out of the game for much of the match, had a couple of opportunities in the very last minute, but Herefords defence twice foiled him well, with Dudfield poised to strike, well placed, at a gaping goal.

Had Notts equalised it would have been far from deserved, with Hereford impressing, particularly in the first half, and showing more of a threat and more of a resilience.

From a Notts perspective, the defence was ragged, and the formation appeared totally wrong. Employing a three man midfield away from home against a five man midfield appeared a ludicrous move.

The defeat moves Notts further away from Stockport in the final Playoff place, with the Hatters defeating Wycombe. Notts remain in eighth place, still just three points from seventh, but now just four points from the bottom half of the table, with the position set to worsen as teams begin their games in hand.

An immediate return to winning ways is needed on Tuesday, with Barnet just short of Notts' tally of 41 points, and a host of teams still well in the hunt due to Notts' ever going inconsistency.