Southend United 1 Hereford United 0 HEREFORD United’s experienced utility player Rob Purdie pulled no punches in his assessment of the Bulls’ lacklustre first-half display in their League 2 season-opener at Roots Hall.

“I don’t think we can take too much out of the first half – we were out-battled and out-worked in most of the areas on the pitch,” said the 28-year-old.

“There were some signs of encouragement in the second half.”

The Bulls were poor in the first period and it was no surprise when they fell behind after 14 minutes.

Joe Heath failed to close down Ryan Hall on the Hereford left and the midfielder’s cross landed on the head of Bilel Mohsni who powered the ball past Adam Bartlett.

The highly-rated Mohsni, while more usually a centreback, was pressed into service as an emergency centreforward due to injuries in the home camp and proved a real threat throughout.

The fact that Southend can still field a player of Mohsni’s quality in attack, despite an injury crisis which ruled out a number of more regular option, is indicative of the relative size of the clubs – Southend’s match programme listed 29 players while Hereford are having to make do with 19, two of whom are transfer-listed, a fact not lost on Purdie.

“Every division seems to be getting stronger,” he said.

“Bigger clubs are dropping out of the Premier League and that filters down through the divisions.

“We are one of the smaller clubs but we still have aspirations of getting this club back up into a higher division – we were in League 1 only a couple of years ago and that is still the aim.”

Hereford perked up a little in the second period and, while chances were infrequent, the arrival of French striker Yoann Arquin in place of Stuart Fleetwood 20 minutes from time lifted United’s threat factor.

“Yoann gives us something a bit different,” said Purdie.

“He is tall, strong and wants to score goals – if there is half a chance, he will always make the effort to get there.

“When he comes on, it’s a lift for us as well because we know that we have got someone who is going to be sniffing around and making runs.

“He’s a little rough around the edges and the language barrier can be a problem but I think he has done really well.”

While disappointed by the defeat, Purdie at least had a personal landmark to enjoy with the match being his 200th start for the Bulls.

“I was hoping that my 200th start would be in the last game of last season but I missed out,” he said.

“I want to play, and start, as many games as possible – it is nice to be able to say that I have started 200 games for Hereford and hopefully there will be many more.”

BULLS FACTFILE Hereford: Bartlett; Purdie, Green, Stam, Heath; Colbeck, Pell, Lunt, McQuilkin, Fleetwood (Arquin 71); Facey. Subs not used: Hoult, Kovacs, Canham, Williams.

Southend: Morris; Clohessy, Phillips, Barker, Prosser; Hall, Grant (Ferdinand 90), Kalala, Johnson (Sawyer 77); Harris, Mohsni (Dickinson 90). Subs not used: Bentley, Crawford.

Referee: Carl Berry (Surrey).

Attendance: 5,105 (including 247 from Hereford).

Goals: Mohsni, 14 min, 1-0.

Yellow cards: Hereford – Colbeck, kicking the ball away, 20 min; Heath, foul, 56 min; Fleetwood, foul, 62 min; Southend – Johnson, kicking the ball away, 40 min; Hall, dissent, 46 min.