Hereford came through their first major challenge of the season with a creditable draw with the Football Conference favourites on Saturday.

An excellent game saw plenty of good football from both sides and United's confidence will certainly not have been harmed by a fine performance in Rushden's magnificent Nene Park stadium.

After some intitial midfield sparring, Rushden were the first to carve out a chance. A good run by Jon Brady set up Darren Collins but he squared the ball to former Bulls striker Adrian Foster who was robbed by a timely tackle from Ian Wright.

Foster headed wide from a Tim Wooding cross before United burst down the field to take the lead on 30 minutes.

Paul Fewings, who had another impressive game in attack, charged into the penalty area but was heading for the by-line when he was bundled over by goalkeeper Mark Smith and a penalty was awarded.

The respective records of the two sides - Smith had never been beaten by five previous penalty attempts in Rushden colours and Hereford had missed their last three spot-kicks - hardly gave any feeling of certainty that the first goal was about to arrive. But Gavin Mahon stepped up and hammered the ball into the net.

The goal seemed to spur the home side back into action and United keeper Andy Quy did well to hold a dangerous, curling cross from Foster.

On 35 minutes the dangerous Collins headed a Wooding cross wide from a good position but two minutes later made no mistake when presented with a similar opportunity.

A good pass by Foster found Paul Underwood in plenty of space on the left and he produced an accurate centre for Collins to flash his header past the helpless Quy.

Mark Taylor's cross gave Gavin Williams a chance to restore the Hereford lead just before the break but Smith got down well to smother the youngster's shot and the half ended with Brady's free-kick comfortably clearing the Hereford cross-bar.

Hereford opened brightly in the second period but had to rely on Quy to keep the scores level on 55 minutes. The United keeper had to rush out to save at Foster's feet after he was put clear by Brady.

Two minutes later Wright, who used his aerial power to good effect in both penalty areas, headed an Ian Rodgerson free-kick just wide.

Fewings then twice failed to find the finish to match his powerful running before rather spoiling his afternoon by being yellow-carded for a clumsy challenge on Wooding.

Towards the end, Diamonds carved out some useful openings and Collins missed a great chance to clinch the points when he lifted his shot over the top after a cross from substitute Colin West.

John Snape was also cautioned for a first-half foul.

Hereford: Quy, Rodgerson, James, Mahon, Wright, Walker, Williams, Taylor, (sub Leadbeater 72 mins) Fewings, Lane, Snape.