Burton Albion snatched a dramatic winner in a seven goal thriller at Edgar Street. The Brewers led 1-0 but had to come back from 3-1 down with two goals in six minutes in the middle of the second half to ensure they did not lose their third game in a row. However there was late drama as former Hereford hero Tony James rose highest in the sixth minute of stoppage time to head home his first goal in 109 Burton Albion appearances.
Man of the moment, Shaun Harrad gave Albion an early lead with Cleveland Taylor and Aaron Webster hitting back for the Brewers. It was a bitter sweet day for Webster who then saw red in stoppage time for a second bookable offence.
Brewers boss Paul Peschisolido made two changes to the side that lost 3-2 at Morecambe on Tuesday evening. The Albion manager decided to revert to the back four that had been so miserly in recent weeks meaning a return to left back for Aaron Webster as Paul Boertien dropped to the bench. That tactical change opened the door for Jimmy Phillips to return on the left side of midfield after an encouraging performance in the reserves match on Wednesday against Shrewsbury Town.
The other change was enforced with striker Steve Kabba missing out with a hamstring injury picked up in training towards the end of the week. Greg Pearson was restored to the starting line-up to partner the in form Shaun Harrad. Between the two of them, Pearson and Harrad have scored 21 of Albion's 46 goals in League two this term.
The game marked Tony James' first return to Edgar Street in an Albion shirt after the Bulls made a deadline day move to take the cultured defender back to Edgar Street.
Within the Hereford squad there was a place for Lee Morris on the bench, the striker having joined the Bulls last summer after playing a part in Albion's promotion campaign last season.
After a bright start from the hosts it was Albion who had the first shot in anger at goal. Jacques Maghoma, as he did on Tuesday at Morecambe, picked up the ball inside his own half and drove towards goal but this time from 25 yards out, lifted his shot high, wide and not quite so handsome. Hereford immediately responded with a half chance of their own, a free kick from the edge of the centre circle bing headed across goal by Leon Constantine with Matt Done heading the ball into the waiting arms of Artur Krysiak.
The hosts began to settle, looking to improve on their already good home record and Tony James had to be alert to get a good block in on Canadian frontman Gavin McCallum.
It was an important block as Albion raided forward and took the lead in the ninth minute. An error by former Forest Green defender Darren Jones saw the ball squirt off his head and that allowed Greg Pearson to latch onto Tony James' long ball forward and after racing into the box, unselfishly squared the ball for Shaun HARRAD to drill the ball home from close range for his eighth goal in his last eleven appearances.
The increasingly confident Harrad even took on free kick taking duties in the 17th minute. With the ball 25 yards from goal the striker stepped up and fired goalwards with Adam Bartlett in the Hereford goal happy to grab the ball.
The Bulls tried to hit back and were close in the 19th minute. A cross from the left finding its way through to McCallum but the striker scuffing his volley straight into the arms of Krysiak.
More good work from Albion almost conjured up a second in the 20th minute. Harrad and Cleveland Taylor combined for the latter to put in a teasing cross that was only inches away from Jimmy Phillips, waiting at the far post to hit a spectacular volley.
Maghoma tried his luck from distance again in the 24th minute when the Bulls failed to clear their lines but this effort although closer than his previous effort, rolled wide of the post.
Hereford, despite looking second best since the goal went in struck back in the 28th minute. The Bulls worked a chance down the right with McCallum feeding Matt Done. The midfielder worked the room for a cross which found its way to Marc PUGH who found the back of the net from eight yards out via a deflection off Aaron Webster that wrongfooted Krysiak.
Almost immediately Hereford had the chance to score again but James produced another superbly timed block to stop Leon Constantine turning and firing on goal.
John McGrath had a chance to put Albion back in front moments later when Greg Pearson was flattened on the edge of the box but his curling free kick was easy for Bartlett to catch.
The game entered something of a scrappy phase with both sides trying to gain the upper hand and Cleveland Taylor was nearest to troubling ths scorers as he raced onto Tony James' pass and tested Bartlett with another effort from range in the 40th minute.
Half time - Hereford United 1 - 1 Burton Albion
The second half began a lot more quietly than the first had although the flow of the game was interrupted by a stoppage for a clash of heads between Tony James and Gavin McCallum which both players recovered from after receiving some treatment.
From nowhere the Bulls turned the game around and took the lead in the 55th minute. Aaron Webster did well enough to get above McCallum to win a header on the edge of his own box but the ball fell nicely for former Crewe midfielder Kenny LUNT who smashed a twenty five yard shot straight into the top corner as everyone seemed to stand still while the ball flew into the net.
The Bulls took advantage of some poor Albion defending to extend their lead in the 59th minute. Aaron Webster was caught out by the run of Pugh down the right and his cross caused mayhem in the box as several players had a stab at scoring before the ball seemed to hit James McQUIILKIN and creep over the line with the Albion defence wrong footed.
Albion's response was immediate. An attack down the right saw Cleveland TAYLOR drive across the edge of the box and fire low through a crowded penalty area into the bottom corner of the net.
Paul Peschisolido made a double change just after the hour with Richard Walker and Keith Gilroy replacing Greg Pearson and Jimmy Phillips respectively.
The Brewers recovery was complete in the 66th minute. Jones handballed Shaun Harrad's attempted cross and from the resultant free kick on the right, Aaron WEBSTER rose highest inside the six yard box to head powerfully past Bartlett.
Albion had a great chance to go back in front in the 70th minute. A flowing move started by Jacques Maghoma saw Richard Walker lay a delightful ball out to Gilroy on the left. The substitute put in a superb ball to the back post where Walker had continued his run. As the Hereford defence stood off the former Bristol Rovers striker failed to get over the ball and could not direct a free header on target.
Hereford also made a double change, this time with fifteen minutes to go, both strikers being replaced and the familiar face of Lee Morris introduced alongside Matthieu Manset.
Artur Krysiak made a superb double save in the 82nd minute to keep the scores level. the Pole stretched himself to intercept Morris' cross and then leapt to his feet as the ball fell for Pugh, the keeper spreading himself well to block the Hereford man's goalbound effort.
Walker missed another chance to put Albion in front in the 85th minute, almost getting to the ball too early as Gilroy's cross fell for him in the box, the striker sliding the ball tamely into the arms of Bartlett.
Krysiak again came to Albion's rescue as Manset almost got on the end of a free kick and with neither side prepared to settle for a point, Cleveland Taylor blasted narrowly over the angle after a Shaun Harrad cross found him at the far post.
On a day of high drama, there was a fantastic end to the game. Albion won a foul down by the corner flag and when Keith GIlroy delivered an inswinging free kick, who else but Tony JAMES, goalless in 108 previous Albion appearances rose highest in the six yard box to head home a last gasp winner.
HEREFORD: Bartlett, Valentine, Lunt, Pugh, Constantine (Manset, 76), McQuilkin, Gwynne, Downing, Jones, Done, McCallum (Morris, 76). Substitutes: Green, Rose, Lowe, Weir, Adamson.
ALBION: Krysiak, Corbett, James, Parkes, Webster; Taylor, Maghoma, McGrath, Phillips (Gilroy, 62) ; Harrad, Pearson (Walker, 62). Substitutes: Poole, Boertien, Knowles.
GOALS: HEREFORD - Pugh (28), Lunt (55), McQuilkin (59), ALBION - Harrad (9), Taylor (60), Webster (66), James (90+6)
BOOKINGS: Albion - Webster
SENDING-OFF: Webster (second bookable offence)
Albion man of the match - Tony James - another superbly composed display
Referee: Mr. M. Jones (Cheshire)