Hereford United paid the price for an abysmal showing in the first half-hour of their Nationwide Conference fixture at the Crabble, dissolving to their fourth defeat in five away games.

The tone was set straight from the kick-off when the experienced Mark Taylor, who had an afternoon he will want to forget, passed directly into touch. Matters showed little improvement until the 30-minute mark but by then it was too late.

United welcomed back Ian Wright after his broken nose injury and the United skipper almost got his name on the scoresheet in the third minute - at the wrong end when he sliced an attempted clearance from Stuart Munday's cross-shot inches wide of his own goal.

As Hereford struggled for any form of cohesion, the home side continued to have much the better of the play and it was no surprise when they took the lead after 13 minutes.

Simon Wormull, whose strong running and accurate crossing were a feature of the early play, picked out Mark Hines who directed a powerful header into the corner of Mark Jones' net.

Within a minute the same combination conspired to double the advantage. Wormull's accurate pass into the area gave Hines the opportunity to score.

Hereford gradually settled and Paul Fewings showed neat skill as he burst into the box, only to lose control.

Wright and Robin Elmes both directed headers from dead-ball situations straight at home keeper Paul Hyde.

But the half ended with a yellow card for James Wall, his fifth in nine appearances, ensuring a period of suspension for the young defender.

Wall and the ineffectual Gavin Williams were substituted at half-time as Hereford boss Graham Turner tried to force some life back into the side and the double move should have paid off nine minutes into the second half.

Fewings was bearing down on goal when his legs were taken from under him by Jake Leberl and referee Danny Downs pointed to the spot.

With penalty expert Williams on the sidelines, up stepped Taylor, whose record from the spot last season - two misses out of three - inspired little confidence.

This time a weakly hit effort was gratefully grabbed by Hyde at the second attempt.

Hereford continued to have the better of play but could not find a way through.

The closest they came was when Robin Elmes headed against the bar.

In addition to Wall, there were also yellow cards for Wright and John Snape.

Hereford: Jones, Clarke, Sturgess, Snape (Beale 78 min), Wright, Wall (James 46 min), Williams (Parry 46 min), Taylor, Elmes, Fewings, Rodgerson. Subs not used: Lane, Cotterill.

Attendance: 840.

l United's bid to retain the Central Conference Doxhill Challenge Cup ended when they were pipped 2-1 by Cheltenham Town in the qualifying round at Edgar Street. Paul Parry netted for the Bulls.