ALFRETON Town suffered their first home Blue Square Bet Premier defeat of the season with three goals in a devastating 13-minute spell by Hereford leading to a comfortable 3-0 win.
But the outcome at the Impact Arena on Saturday could have been so different had a 20th minute penalty been awarded, after Paul Clayton was clattered to the ground by both a Hereford defender and goalkeeper Dan Hanford as the latter attempted to punch clear.
There was further distress for Alfreton when Tom Denton was given his marching orders for a dangerous tackle on Watkins just six minutes after taking the field, and he will now miss the weekend’s trip to Barrow.
The Reds were forced to go into the game without the services of key defender Darran Kempson who was suffering from a calf strain, so Adam Quinn made his first start at the heart of the defence as well as taking over the captaincy.
Anton Brown dragged a 20 yard volley wide as the Reds had their first sniff of goal in the seventh minute, but it was Barnes in action again 60 seconds later with a vital touch as Nichols ran on to Hanford’s huge clearance.
Quinn’s header was held from a Leigh Franks’ cross on 12 minutes, then two minutes further on a Franks’ long throw saw Hanford having to palm away a Brown header.
A long run down the right by Josh Law saw Nathan Arnold fire wide after Simon Russell had pulled back Law’s 18th minute cross, then Arnold latched on to a wayward back header from Ashley Sammons only for Hanford to hack clear.
Dan Bradley’s effort from 30 yards only just missed the target on 29 minutes, but it needed two excellent saves by Hanford to prevent Alfreton taking a 44th minute lead.
Hereford took a 55th minute lead following a neat four-man move that culminated with Watkins volleying in from eight yards off the underside of the crossbar.
The visitors added a second eight minutes later when Sean Canham scored from close range after Barnes had superbly parried Michael Townsend’s header from a by-line free-kick.
Arnold had a shot beaten away by Hanford but Nichols scored Hereford’s third goal in the 68th minute, after being put through by Watkins for a clinical finish.
Barnes had to produce another save ten minutes from time by parrying from Canham, then in the dying seconds the keeper had to tip over a stinging angled drive from James McQuilkin.
ALFRETON: Barnes; Streete, Quinn, Franks, Franklin, Law, Brown, Bradley, Russell (Tomlinson 63), Clayton (Denton 77), Arnold. Subs not used: Meadows, A.Wilson.
ATT: 690 (213 away).