TWO-GOAL Rob Elmes restored some of Hereford's pride in a comprehensive victory over the Nationwide Confer-ence leaders at Edgar Street.

But the joy generated by such a conclusive win was tinged with considerable regret that the fortune that went the Bulls' way on Saturday had not come in the previous week's FA Umbro Trophy semi-final against Forest Green Rovers.

"I don't think we worked any harder than we did against Forest Green Rovers but today the chances went in," said Bulls boss Graham Turner.

And the luck that eluded United against their Gloucestershire opponents certainly favoured the Bulls against Rushden, although Hereford more than deserved their three-goal half-time lead after as skilful, energetic, committed and quality-filled display as they have given all season.

The first stroke of good fortune came on seven minutes when Gavin Williams' free-kick flicked off the head of United skipper Ian Wright and then on to the forehead of his opposite number Ray Warburton whose header rocketed past the stunned Billy Turley.

Matt Clarke, who won the free-kick which led to the opening score, also had a central role to play in United's second goal after 33 minutes.

The former Kiddermin-ster full-back raced past Andy Burgess and delivered a perfect cross to the waiting Elmes. The Sutton Coldfield schooteacher's header was pushed on to the bar by Turley but the rebound fell to Elmes who had no difficulty in nudging the ball home.

Five minutes later Clarke was again the provider, sending in a cross which was miss-hit by Williams into the path of Elmes who gleefully smashed it home from 12 yards.

Diamonds' much-vaunted attack, featuring almost £300,000 of talent in Duane Darby and Justin Jackson, was little seen in the first half, although both had opportunities to reduce arrears.

When Diamonds finally did get a goal back it was courtesy of United defender Tony James, who deflected a Jackson cross past Scott Cooksey.

Darby flicked a Jackson cross just wide shortly afterwards and then headed a Jon Brady cross well over but United comfortably held on to register their third successive home win over the Conference favourites, who suffered their first defeat in 16 games since December 1.

Hereford: Cooksey, Clarke, Sturgess, Robinson, Wright, James, Quiggin, Snape, Elmes, Williams, Shirley. Subs not used: Baker, Giddings, Parry, Piearce, Plotnek.

Rushden: Turley, Solkhon (Mills 46 mins), Gray, Carey (Wormull 46 mins), Peters, Warburton, Butterworth, Brady, Jackson, Darby, Burgess (Sigere 81 mins). Subs not used: Rodwell, Bossu.

Referee: P Crossley (Bromley).

Attendance: 2,005.