A disastrous six-minute spell either side of half-time led to 10-man Chester going down to a dispiriting defeat in their first home game of the Skrill Premier campaign.

The Blues, bidding to bounce back from their opening-day loss to Barnet, were marginally the better side in a closely contested first half bereft of clear-cut chances.

But they fell behind just before the break when Luke Graham headed in a Rob Purdie corner.

Worse was to follow four minutes after the restart when Michael Kay was sent-off.

From the following free kick Sam Smith doubled Hereford’s advantage to the dismay of the majority of the 2,900 Deva Stadium crowd.

The result means Chester are still searching for their first point – and goal – since winning promotion to the non-league top flight.

But they can take some consolation from the way they performed before Graham’s sucker-punch.

Blues boss Neil Young made three changes to the team that started Saturday’s 3-0 reverse at Barnet.

Marc Williams was preferred in attack to Jamie Reed while the Turner twins, right-back Lewis and centre-midfielder Nathan, replaced Paul Linwood and Jason Jarrett.

Williams struggled to make an impact but Young’s decision to rejig his defence – with Kay moving inside to partner George Horan in the middle – appeared to pay off as the hosts restricted Hereford, who finished just outside the play-offs last season, to very little in the opening period.

It will have been a source of massive frustration to Young then to see his side go a goal down in first-half injury-time.

Purdie swung a corner to the edge of the area toward Graham.

Goalkeeper John Danby came out to meet it but, with his path seemingly blocked off, he was left in no man’s land and the Bulls skipper expertly looped a header underneath the bar to give his team an undeserved lead.

It was undeserved as up until that point Chester – despite lacking a cutting edge – had the better of the play.

Craig Mahon looped a header on to the roof of the net following a hooked cross from Lewis Turner, who in an impressive start to the game also stung the hands of Rhys Evans from distance.

Former England Under 21s goalkeeper Evans should have been given no chance by Craig Lindfield in the 38th minute.

But the winger delayed his shot and Danny Leadbitter produced a brave block to prevent it from troubling Evans.

Although Smith had a close-range effort ruled out for offside after Michael Rankine turned Horan too easily, it still came against the run of play when Hereford went in front.

Any chance the Blues had of getting back into the match were blown away inside the first five minutes of the second half.

Michael Kay was sent off as Chester FC were beaten by Hereford
Michael Kay was sent off as Chester FC were beaten by Hereford

Firstly Kay was shown a second yellow card followed by a red for bringing down Dan Walker.

The former Tranmere Rovers defender, who received his first caution for fouling the same player, could have no complaints.

And salt was rubbed into the wounds when Kingsley James’ free kick was turned on by Rankine for Smith to side-foot home.

Big, strong and organised Hereford could have added to their final tally, Smith hitting the bar after Danby had spilled a Chris Bush free kick.

Danby later redeemed himself by saving from Rankine and Bush.

Chester: Danby, L Turner, Kay, Horan, McIntyre, Lindfield (Jarrett 60), N Turner, Harrison, Mahon (Linwood 51), M Williams (Reed 58), Seddon.  Subs: A Williams, Heath.

Booked: Kay, McIntyre.

Sent off: Kay 49.

Hereford: Evans, Leadbitter, Graham, McDonald, Bush, Purdie (Artus 75), James, O’Keefe, Walker (Pilkington 84), Rankine, Smith (Sharp 75). Subs:  Collins, Edwards.

Goals: Graham 45, Smith 50.

Referee: Richard Martin (Weston-super-Mare).

Attendance: 2,900.