Kovacs bullet seals Hereford win
Attendance: 4343 (905 away)
A glorious start to the Simon Davey era at Hereford United thanks to a determined, resourceful and hard working display from a new look Bulls team.
Skipper Janos Kovacs proved to be the catalyst with both a resolute performance at the back, and a towering bullet-point header to win the game.
United did not have it all their own way, however, and only some poor finishing from the home side made sure Hereford came away from Gresty Road with smiles all round.
The former Crewe captain Kenny Lunt was left on the Bulls' substitute bench, with Hereford boss Simon Davey preferring a three-man midfield.
Goalkeeper Dan Connor will have to wait a while longer before making his first team debut for Hereford as the Irish born stopper made way for Adam Bartlett between the sticks.
Hereford were much the brighter side in the opening period, frequently showing excellent composure despite fielding six debutants.
Some deft touches in midfield from McQuilkin stood out, with his range of passing often dissecting the Crewe rearguard.
Indeed the former West Bromwich Albion trainee almost put the visitors in front but sliced his effort wide.
United held sway in terms of possession, but could and should have fallen behind to a sucker punch on the quarter-hour mark.
O'Neil Thompson dallied on the ball inside the centre-circle with Crewe quick to pounce on his hesitation. Luke Murphy ran through before teeing up Donaldson. Fortunately for the Bulls the ex York City striker screwed wide of Bartlett's goal.
Within seconds Hereford went in front.
An inswinging McQuilkin corner from the left was met by the towering presence of Kovacs who powered home a header into the roof of the Crewe net, with keeper Rhys Taylor nowhere.
Crewe almost drew level in the 20th minute when Bartlett dropped a free-kick but the Bulls back line were swiftly on hand to get the ball out of the danger area.
A lunging tackle on Donaldson then saw Ryan Valentine issued with a yellow card as the battle between the two intensified down the flank.
The Cameroon defender Patrick Ada almost got Crewe back on level terms but headed over the crossbar when well placed.
Midfielder Shaun Miller then fizzed a shot wide as the game opened up with chances at both ends.
The Bulls' frontman Sean Canham almost got on the end of a Valentine cross after a penetrative run by Mathieu Manset, and Colbeck tested Taylor from long range with an accurate drive.
A howling miss by Miller just before the break ensured Hereford went in ahead at half-time.
United continued to control possession immediately after the restart, but Crewe began to gain an increasing foothold in midfield with Miller forcing a diving save out of Bartlett.
A United counter-attack saw Colbeck blast a shot over the crossbar, but by this stage the intensity of the game had dropped.
Indeed, Kenny Lunt replaced Canham on the hour mark enabling the Bulls to restore a calming influence in centrefield.
Thompson got booked following a fracas on the halfway line as tempers frayed in what had, until that point, been a well-contested game played in good spirit.
Manset then screwed an ambitious volley wide of the Crewe net as the match entered the final 15 minutes.
Stuart Fleetwood typified the Bulls 'team ethic' with some magnificent defensive runs, tracking back up to 40 yards on occasions to deny Crewe space down the flanks.
Townsend and Kovacs marshalled the Hereford back-line terrifically, but they were beaten in the 80th minute and had Bartlett to thank for a brave save diving at the feet of the onrushing full-back Matt Tootle.
A resolute opener then for Hereford, enjoyed by the near 1,000 band of highly vocal Bulls supporters.
Hereford United: Bartlett; Green, Kovacs, Townsend, Valentine; Thompson, McQuilkin, Colbeck; Fleetwood, Canham (Lunt 58), Manset.
Substitutes not used: Connor, Rose, Weir, Gwyne, Stratford, Malsom.
Crewe Alexandra: Taylor; Tootle, Ada, Artell, Blanchett; Murphy, Bell, Westwood; Donaldson, Zola (Grant 69), Miller (Leitch-Smith 90)
Substitutes not used: Moore, Mitchel-King, Dugdale, Powell, Barratt.
Referee: Brendan Malone (Wiltshire).
Attendance: 4,343 (including 905 from Hereford).
'We are still going to take time to gel but games and results like this are going to help us gel quicker.
'It was a tough game against difficult opposition and not many teams are going to come here and win games. It was a good start but we are a long way from the finished article. We have got a lot of games to play and we'll have some rides on the rollercoaster along the way.
'I could see a hunger and desire to succeed when I recruited the players. We then got them on the training ground and helped pull it all together.
'We are a small, tight-knit squad. We all get on together, we all work hard together and there is a lot of camaraderie between them. I think all the players are hungry and have a point to prove to the clubs that let them go.
'The aim is to win every match and we will see where that takes us.
'We just promise the fans that all my players and my staff will give 100%.'
'I said to the players 'there will be a lot of games like that where we are the better team but not by much'.
'We can't expect any team to roll over and die and we need to take our chances.
'I think we are playing pretty much to our potential at the moment and I don't think there is much more we can squeeze out of them. I think that is the best we can do, I'm afraid to say.
'They scored a good header, but I think we should have been marking him better. I just wish we could score headed goals like that.
'They defended well and we ran out of ideas in the end.'