10 January 2004.
Exeter City 3 Hereford United 2.
Saturday 10 January 2004.
Hereford United slipped out of the FA Trophy at the first attempt for the second season running despite twice looking as if they had secured a replay.
The Bulls defended well for the first 75 minutes to keep the score sheet blank, but then fought back superbly to level after conceding two quick goals, only to lose to Gareth Sheldon's strike two minutes from time.
With Hereford's defence in control, it came as something of a surprise when a mistake by Hereford's most accomplished player over the first hour-and-a-quarter gifted the home side the opener.
Tony James makes few mistakes, but when he does err it inevitably seems to end in a goal and so it proved at St James Park.
James's slip gifted the ball to Sheldon on the edge of the box and he threaded the ball through to Sean Devine's whose shot carried too much pace for Matt Baker.
Two minutes later, Hereford fell further behind when Exeter goalkeeper Martin Rice's long punt downfield was well gathered by James Coppinger who resisted the challenges of Dean Craven and Jamie Pitman before lobbing home superbly from the edge of the box.
But Hereford's attack, which had struggled in the absence of the injured Steve Guinan and the transferred Paul Parry, finally burst into life.
Ryan Green's excellent through ball sent Danny Carey-Bertram, a late substitute for Mark Beesley, racing into the box and his powerful shot screamed past Rice and into the net.
Then, on 86 minutes, Carey-Bertram turned provider, turning a cross from David Brown into the path of Rob Purdie whose unstoppable half-volley from the edge of the area was worthy of earning a share of the spoils in any game.
But it wasn't to be as with just two minutes remaining, Sheldon found some space to fire home the winner from the edge of the area.
Earlier, there had been precious little to inspire with Sheldon's 20-yard blast against the cross bar after the Hereford defence had failed to adequately clear a James Coppinger cross the closest either side came to breaking the deadlock.
For Hereford, the best efforts had come from Brown, who managed to sidefoot a Beesley cross over from six yards out on the stroke of half-time and from Ben Smith who threw himself at a Michael Rose cross on 75 minutes but was unable to control his header which comfortably cleared the bar.
Disappointed Hereford boss Graham Turner said afterwards: "I didn't think we played badly and controlled the game for long periods.
"They had only one chance in the first-half. We showed a lot of courage to come back after they got their goals."
Referee: J Singh