Hereford avoided an opening day defeat for the first time in their three Nationwide Conference campaigns at Gander Green Lane on Saturday.

But it was hardly the confident display that the travelling, several hundred, United fans had wanted to see with little posed in the way of threat in attack and precious few moments of creativity from the midfield.

But, in the final analysis, Hereford at least avoided losing by fighting back when defeat seemed on the cards, a situation which has not always occurred in recent seasons. Skipper Ian Wright summed up succinctly: "We battled away and got a point. This time last year we wouldn't have done that."

Wright himself had a part to play in Tony James's 82nd minute equaliser. The United captain, who had emerged after the interval with his arm bandaged following a bruising first-half collision, had only just re-entered the fray after a long period of treatment from physio Simon Thompson to a leg injury.

But Wright was well-placed to flick on a corner from Mark Taylor and former Derby County youngster James Wall returned the ball to the far post where James was waiting to head home.

The home side, last season's Ryman League champions, had taken the lead 12 minutes after half-time following a scramble in the United goalmouth.

The Hereford defence failed to clear a corner and Paul Harford, son of ex-Blackburn and West Bromwich Albion manager Ray Harford, got the last touch past Andy Quy.

Before the interval, Quy had had little to do as Sutton's attack, first through Colin Simpson then through Mark Watson, failed to hit the target when well placed.

The best scoring opportunity in the first 45 minutes had fallen to Wright when he bulleted a Taylor corner straight at Gareth Howells seven minutes before half-time.

Substitute Robin Elmes, should have equalised on 77 minutes when Gavin Williams and Craig Hanson combined to set up a great opening, but the former Halesowen player spooned the chance over the waiting goal.

The small consolation that Hereford may take from this opening day point is that their two previous championship winning seasons in 1964-5 and 1975-6 also began with draws.

Wall was booked for a first-half foul on Andy Salako and he was joined in referee Jarnail Singh's notebook after the break by Matt Clarke following a flare-up with Dack.

HEREFORD: Quy, Clarke, Wall, Snape, (sub Fewings, 62 min) Wright, James, Williams, Taylor, May, (sub Elmes, 72 min), Piearce, (sub Hanson, 72 min), Rodgerson.

Attendance: 1,386.