HEREFORD United have this week been counting the cost of their early FA Cup exit.

Last year the Bulls made a cool £250,000 from their excellent run to the third round before bowing out to Premiership side Leicester City in a third round replay.

But their 1-0 exit at Woking at the first hurdle last Saturday means their returns from the Cup this season will be minuscule - a big blow for a club which still struggles to make ends meet.

Director of Football and club chairman Graham Turner said: "It is obviously a bitter blow to us financially. Last year's run offset a lot of our running costs for the season, and an early exit makes life difficult.

"The financial position is still precarious -- it is hard going keeping a club of this size running. But we will still battle on and there is still a lot to look forward to this season."

United are looking positively at the benefits they can gain from other competitions.

They are, of course, one of eight Nationwide Conference clubs specially invited to play in the competition formerly known as the Auto Windscreens Shield, alongside the Second and Third Division clubs.

The draw -- and new sponsors -- were due to be announced today, although whether the competition will have the same prestige without a Wembley final to look forward to remains to be seen.

But United will relish a chance to pit their wits against League opposition, with Turner saying: "There is some consolation in being involved in this competition, and we need to make a bit of progress."

The Bulls also have the FA Umbro Trophy to look forward to in the New Year, being overdue a good run in that competition having not been beyond the last 32 since they dropped back into non-league soccer.

And, of course, they are not ruling themselves out of the Conference title race, as they sit in third place before today's trip to Scarborough.