Hereford'S Football Conference campaign got off to the worst possible start with defeat to last season's Ryman League champions on Saturday.

Despite turning out an almost entirely changed side, many of the old United faults were still in evidence in the first half when they conceded two goals in the space of 25 minutes, one from a set- piece and the other from a ghastly defensive mistake.

Hereford were a different side after the break and attacked constantly but their efforts found-ered time after time against a defensive wall, featuring three 6ft 2in centre-backs who headed away with ease any crosses which came in from the flanks.

The home side, making their Conference debut, were exactly the sort of team which gave the Bulls problems all last season, with comparatively little skill but plenty of height, effort and energy. As against similar sides last term, Welling, Dover and Slough, to name three, Hereford were unable to find a way through.

The first goal, after eight minutes, came from Kingstonian's first and only corner of the first period. The ball was played into the centre by former Swindon Town defender Ian Culverhouse and Mark Harris headed across goal for David Leworthy to shoot past the helpless Andy Quy.

Quy also had no chance on 34 minutes when Stuart Evans dithered on the ball and was robbed by Eddie Akuamoah who squared for Joe Francis to net.

Three minutes before the break Hereford squandered the first of two great chances to reduce arrears.

Skipper Ian Rodgerson got free down the right and his cross was met on the half-volley by Mark Taylor. Unhappily, the former Shrewsbury midfielder's shot, from just eight yards out, was still rising when it went out of the ground.

Hereford, who forced four corners to the home side's one in the second half, missed their other fine chance to get on the scoresheet after 75 minutes. Evans pumped the ball out of defence and found Paul Fewings in the clear but his left-footed shot was hopelessly miscued and flew yards wide. Fewings was one of three Hereford players booked, the others being Taylor and Mark Lead-beater.

Hereford: Quy, Lane, Walker, Mahon, Wright, Evans, Rodgerson, Taylor, Leadbeater, Snape (Cook 62 mins), Fewings (Williams 86 mins). Sub not used: Downing.