RUSHDEN top scorer Darren Collins torpedoed Hereford's bid to finish among the top three in the Vauxhall Conference with an 86th-minute equaliser in the last first team match of the season at Edgar Street.

It looked as if United's veteran striker Tony Agana's third-minute goal would be enough to keep them in contention for some Conference prize- money until Collins fired in his 27th goal of the campaign during a goalmouth scramble.

In October the semi- professional international caused United's downfall at Nene Park where he scored the only goal of the game.

Hereford's previous midweek match at lowly Gateshead followed a similar pattern when they conceded a late goal and were held to a 1-1 draw.

United director of football Graham Turner said: ''We have thrown away four points in the last two games and missed our chances to kill off Rushden with a second goal. With the slope and wind in their favour in the second half, we knew they would put us under pressure at sometime.''

Rushden, who dropped from second to third place, drew away for the first time in the Conference for 13 months. They forced 10 corners to the Bulls' two and their head coach Brian Talbot was entitled to say: ''Although we did not play well, we deserved a point.''

Agana soon brought a roar from the home fans when Mark Smith reacted too slowly to his skimming 25-yard shot which whipped past the keeper's despairing dive into the net.

Hereford then had the best of matters until half-time with Chris Harg-reaves testing Smith and skipper Brian McGorry only just off target with a first-time effort.

After the changeover United keeper Andy Quy came much more into the action. He did well to save a deceptive, swerving shot from substitute Colin West and confidently handled a succession of dangerous flag-kicks and crosses.

Even so, United missed two excellent chances to go two up. Gavin Mahon, with only Smith to beat, failed to collect Agana's centre and McGorry shot straight at the keeper from eight yards.

At the other end a complete miskick by former United striker Adrian Foster, who substituted for Brendan Hackett in the 65th minute, was gleefully mocked by the Meadow Ends fans. But it was Collins who had the last laugh.

Hereford: Quy, Rodgerson, Walker, Matthewson, Fishlock, Pitman (Williams 86 mins), McGorry, Mahon, Warner (Mansell 73 mins), Agana, Hargreaves. Sub not used: Parry.

Attendance: 3,055.