There were two changes to the starting line-up for this Blue Square Bet Premier game at Hereford United with Mo Fofana returning from injury and Conner Robinson recalled with Adam Smith and Colin Larkin the men missing out, although the latter was named on the bench.
The hosts kicked off on what looked to be a poor playing surface and both sides took their time to get used to the pitch; in fact four minutes had elapsed before the first attack of note came along with Jake Jones winning a corner which was taken by skipper Alan Power and claimed with ease by James Bittner.
City then had a spell of pressure and this paid off in the ninth minute when Peter Gilbert swung a ball into the box, home defender James Musa made a hash of a clearing header and with the ball going past Bittner, Oliver was on hand to make sure, prodding the ball in from an inch out.
Hereford's response saw the overlapping Musa denied a cross by a fine saving challenge from the back-tracking Robinson but when the resultant corner was swung into the area, United captain Stefan Stam powered in a header which nestled in the net via the inside of the post.
Another Hereford corner followed a couple of minutes later but this one went sailing straight out of play whilst City's reply saw Jones pick out Oliver with a cross only for Bittner to palm the striker's header behind for a corner at full stretch. Appeals for a penalty for hand ball when the corner came in were waved away by referee Paul Rees.
Robinson came close to restoring the lead in the 27th minute when he picked up possession before drilling a foot wide with Bittner beaten whilst at the other end Preece easily held a flicked Clucas header.
A crunching challenge on Robinson by Marley Watkins saw the teenager require treatment a couple of minutes later and when play resumed Andrew Boyce bundled Sam Clucas to the deck with Paul Turnbull blocking Clucas's free-kick.
Jones won a third City corner 10 minutes before the break and when this was played back to taker Power, he took on Kingsley James who duly upended him. Referee Rees was quick to point to the spot and Power did the rest, finishing clinically from 12 yards.
Two minutes later Jones drilled just wide from 25 yards following another spell of City pressure whilst a couple of minutes before the break Oliver had a shot deflect behind for a corner which was hurriedly cleared.
City had a let off in the first of two added minutes when ex-Imp Josh O'Keefe failed to get any purchase on a header six yards out before the half ended with Fofana clearing a Watkins free-kick.
HT: Hereford 1 Imps 2
Neither side made any changes ahead of the second half so it was as you were as the Imps restarted proceedings.
The first action following the restart saw Garner upend Sharp 30 yards from goal but Fofana blocked well when the shot came in from the free-kick. United's next attack saw Preece punch clear before O'Keefe got in the way of team mate Musa's shot.
A knock to Oliver brought about a break in play seven minutes in and it was quick to see that the striker was struggling. He was replaced by Craig Hobson in a straight swap.
Hobson was quickly in the action with his first touch seeing him drill just wide from range but Hereford were quick to respond and when Sharp picked up possession from Clucas he drilled in a low effort which flew past Preece, who appeared to be unsighted as the ball beat him at his right.
With the hosts lifted, they won a corner on the hour mark and when this found Stam on the edge of the box he saw his goalbound effort palmed by Preece but the ball fell straight at the feet of Sharp who easily bagged his second in four minutes.
Tempers flared five minutes later when Watkins went in late on Fofana and with both players squaring up to each other, referee Rees booked them both as members from both sides started to exchange words. When play restarted, Watkins went to ground under a Jones foul with the winger also seeing yellow for his trip.
Jamie Taylor replaced Conner Robinson in the 72nd minute but the action was in the Imps' defensive third three minutes later with a Garner foul on Bowman seeing Clucas force Boyce to concede a corner.
Another flag-kick came Hereford's way as the game approached its last 10 minutes but City stood firm. A knock to Bowman then brought about a break in play and a minute later he was replaced by Marlon Jackson. Colin Larkin came on for Jake Jones at the same time for a third and final City switch.
Stam was fortunate to stay on the pitch when, as last man, he dragged Taylor to the floor but the red card stayed in referee Rees's pocket with the official happy to brandish a yellow and when Power fired in the free-kick, it took a deflection for a corner which came to nothing.
City's Gilbert wasn't so fortunate, however, in the final minute when an aerial challenge with Sharp, which left both players grounded, led to referee Rees dishing out a straight red card. Gilbert, who left the field clutching a bloodied nose, appeared to react after being caught by Sharp's elbow.
Six additional minutes failed to provide a dramatic leveller so City were left to reflect on what was ultimately a game, and performance, of two halves.
FT: Hereford 3 Imps 2
City: David Preece, Tom Miller, Andrew Boyce, Scott Garner, Peter Gilbert, Paul Turnbull, Mamadou Fofana, Jake Jones, Conner Robinson, Alan Power, Vadaine Oliver.
subs: Jamie Taylor (for Robinson 72), Dan Gray, Craig Hobson (for Oliver 53), Colin Larkin (for Jones 82), Paul Farman.
goals: Oliver (9), Power (37 pen)
bookings: Fofana (66), Jones (67)
sending off: Gilbert (89)
Hereford: James Bittner, Andy Gallinagh, Luke Graham, Marley Watkins, Chris Sharp, Stefan Stam, Kingsley James, Sam Clucas, Ryan Bowman, Josh O'Keefe, James Musa.
subs: Joe Heath, Chris Carruthers, Marlon Jackson (for Bowman 82), Brian Smikle, Rod McDonald.
goals: Stam (13), Sharp (57, 61)
bookings: Watkins (66), Stam (83)
Referee: Paul Rees
Assistants: Michael D'Aguilar & Matthew Jones
Fourth Official: Tom Harty
Attendance: 1,914 (144 City supporters)