HEREFORD United have lost another of the king-pins of their promotion-winning side with club captain Rob Purdie moving to League 2 rivals Darlington on a two-year deal.

Twenty-four-year-old Purdie was Hereford's longest serving player and had spent five years at Edgar Street, starting 179 matches and appearing on a further 49 occasions as a substitute.

In all matches, he scored 31 goals for Hereford, several of which came from the penalty spot.

After completing his traineeship with Leicester City, Purdie joined the Bulls at the start of the 2002-3 season and figured regularly in midfield as they finished sixth in the table.

But it was in 2003-4 that he really began to make his mark with an early-season rush of goals after being pushed up to partner Steve Guinan in attack.

At the end of that season, he excelled in the hole' behind the front two as Hereford took their tally of goals for the season to 103 on the way to the first of their three Conference second-place finishes.

An injury sustained in the first leg of the play-off semi-final at Aldershot ruled him out of the second leg and hampered his progress at the start of the following season.

But more fine displays in that and the 2005-6 season ensured that he became viewed as an indispensable part of the set-up.

Mostly playing on the left of a midfield quartet, Purdie also demonstrated a previously unused talent as a defender in the club's final Conference season when he filled in at both right and left full-back in occasional matches.

And this part of his game proved important in United's first season back in the league when he figured as a wing-back and, latterly, as an orthodox left-back where he produced a series of outstanding displays.

His key role in the club was recognised at the start of the 2006-7 when he was appointed club captain and his worth was recognised by the supporters who voted him player of the year at the end of the campaign.

Although criticised in some quarters for his lack of goals from open play, he proved an unflappable performer from 12 yards as he established himself as the club's penalty king.

He scored 12 times from 14 penalties with the other two saved, although, on one of these two occasions against Accrington in 2005-6, Stuart Fleetwood followed up to score from the rebound.