Hereford looked set to give their supporters some cheer after the club's week of financial turmoil when they were holding a 1-0 lead well into stoppage time of the GM Vauxhall Conference match.

Then, with almost the last kick of the match, Paul Mitten equalised Jamie Pitman's 25th- minute goal with a superb strike from 25 yards. It was the only time the Sandgrounders had got a threatening shot or header on target, while, as well as scoring, Hereford had also hit the woodwork twice.

United director of football Graham Turner said: ''That just about topped off my worst ever week in football. Considering everything that had gone on during the week, I thought the players showed character and determination and played reasonably well.'' Acting skipper Ian Rodgerson said: ''We wanted to put on a good show for the fans and were gutted to concede a goal in injury time. Because of the financial situation some of the lads did not get in a full week's training.''

It was the first time in 23 years that The Bulls had played Southport, who were able to field only two substitutes as trialist Darren Beckford, the former Norwich and Manchester City striker, failed to turn up.

Hereford were quickly into their stride and keeper Billy Stewart had to race off his line to block a powerful drive from Ian Foster with his feet. In the 25th minute Foster was again out of luck when his shot struck the woodwork. But the ball rebounded to Pitman who arrowed it into the net with a first-time shot for his third goal of the season.

A few minutes later Gavin Mahon, who played particularly well in midfield, unleashed a fierce drive which clipped the bar. At the other end home keeper Mark Gayle was a virtual spectator as Southport rarely mounted a dangerous attack. For the first 10 minutes of the second period United became decidedly shaky and Southport's Paul Bolland should have at least got his header on target from skipper Brian Butler's free-kick.

The Bulls gradually regained control and in the closing stages the woodwork again denied Foster a goal when he let fly from close range, while Pitman had a goal- bound shot blocked. At the Meadow End Mitten shot wide when well placed but he made amends with his last-gasp winner.

Three United players were booked Trevor Matthewson, Hargreaves and Pitman and Southport's Bolland and Andy Farley were also shown yellow cards.

Hereford: Gayle, Rodgerson, Brough, Matthewson, Fishlock, Pitman, McGorry, Mahon, Hargreaves, Milner, Foster. Subs not used: Warner, Cook, Williams.

Attendance: 2,663.