YORK City suffered their heaviest defeat of this National League North season to date as they were beaten 4-1 at home by Hereford.

A pair of goals within the opening quarter of an hour set the visiting Bulls on the right track before a resurgent York pulled one back through Alex Kempster.

To their credit, the Minstermen were not playing like they were behind and looked the more likely of the sides to get the next goal before half-time.

But after the restart, another early goal knocked the stuffing out of York and, as they were getting back to their feet, Lenell John-Lewis landed a hammer blow.

York largely dominated the ball for the rest of the 90 but could not carve out the opportunity to get them back in the game.

City remain top of the table with King's Lynn Town drawing 0-0 at Leamington.

There were two new faces in Hereford’s starting line-up from their 2-0 home defeat to Altrincham, Jason Pope and Kyle Finn both being promoted from the bench.

St Kitts & Nevis international striker Rowan Liburd dropped among the substitutes while Kieran Thomas missed out entirely.

York boss Steve Watson made three changes to the side that started the 1-1 draw with Curzon Ashton.

Steve McNulty had been struggling slightly through the week and was left out of the York squad. Alex Kempster started to give the shape a look of 4-3-3.

Kieran Green and Paddy McLaughlin came in for Andy Bond and Sam Jones, who both dropped to the bench alongside new loan signing, defender Adam Buxton, and Academy star Ethan Henderson.

Ryan Whitley had returned from his loan at South Shields and was available for selection but not included.

The first shot in anger came within three minutes of kick off. Dan Maguire latched onto a lofted ball over the top, cut in from the right, nutmegged Jevan Anderson and drew the foul. Sean Newton’s effort sailed well over.

A minute later, Hereford were ahead. Neat interplay between their front three pulled at York’s defence and right-back Jared Hodgkiss’ delivery was played onto the post. Kelsey Mooney was quickest to respond and poked home from close range.

York’s reaction to going behind was promising – and certainly looked as though it would produce an entertaining game. In Maguire and Kempster, City had two livewire forwards who could be used as an out, while Green twice went close in the nine minutes following the goal. The first came from another Maguire-won free kick, which he punted just wide of the left-hand post with his right, before trying a backwards diving header from a corner.

Hereford made it two in the 14th minute. York gave away a fairly soft free kick a few yards out of the area, Tom Owen-Evans curled in and Lenell John-Lewis headed home.

Green powered a header from a corner just wide before Maguire saw a good chance well blocked by Martin Riley. Pete Jameson’s ball out was nodded on by Jordan Burrow to send Maguire away on goal. The diving Riley looked to have hurt himself but jogged away with ease once the ball was put out of play.

Just after the midway point, Maguire did well to recover a stray Burrow ball across the box and his delivery was met by Kempster, whose header hit the crossbar. No York player could get on it as it dropped back into the area.

A York goal felt agonisingly within the hosts’ grasp – and Burrow thought he had it in the 27th minute when his header was deflected back to him and he poked home, only to see the assistant’s flag raised.

But within 60 seconds, the net was rippling again and this time it stood. McLaughlin delivered a fine ball into Kempster on a tricky angle 15 yards out and the striker drilled into Brandon Hall’s bottom left corner.

For all of York’s brightness up front, Hereford looked capable of forcing their way through the defence on the break. John-Lewis was impressive in the air, besting Newton on a couple of occasions, and he teed up Mooney for a low ball into the box, blocked strongly by Jameson.

To put the two sides on a par, though, would be to do York a disservice. At 2-1 down, they did not play as though they were cowed by the scoreline and their adventure on the ball was a pleasing tonic to Saturday’s performance.

Maguire capitalised on a weak clearance from Riley in stoppage time and went to play in Kempster, who was stopped by a very well-timed challenge at his feet by Halls.

York were inches from the equaliser three minutes after the restart. David Ferguson swung in a left-footed free kick and Green generated great power in directing it towards the far post, off which it bounced for Halls to spin and gather behind him near the goalline.

Five minutes into the second half, Hereford restored their two-goal cushion. York failed to clear a corner kick, the ball hung up in the six-yard box and Anderson powered in.

As the hour approached, John-Lewis tried an audacious speculative lob on the turn for which Jameson had to backpedal to just punch over.

Just as York were looking to have regained some confidence after the third, out of nowhere, John-Lewis delivered another blow. He picked up the ball on the edge of the area and thumped home. Though the ball was moving, it seemed a comfortable height for Jameson to get behind.

York came close to getting a second as Ferguson whipped in a superb ball from the left, beating not only the Bulls defence but also Maguire, Burrow and Kempster.

Defending a fine ball in from the right, Hodgkiss almost put it in his own net. He was not to know there was no immediate threat behind him and, facing the goal, headed the ball onto the keeper’s right-hand post when aiming to put it behind. No City player could capitalise on the rebound.

York: Jameson 6, Griffiths 7, Tait 6, Newton 6, Ferguson 7, Green 7 (Buxton 7, 67), Moke 7, McLaughlin 6 (Jones 6, 58), Kempster 7, Burrow 6, Maguire 7. Subs not used: King, Bond, Henderson.

Goals: Kempster

Star man: Dan Maguire. Easily his best game yet in York colours. A handful for the Bulls' backline and on a different day could have had at least an assist.

Hereford: Hall, Hodgkiss, Anderson, Pollock, Pope, Riley, Jagger Cane, Owen-Evans, John-Lewis (Liburd 86), Mooney, Finn (O’Sullivan 45). Subs not used: Ash, Davies, Whitlock.

Goals: Mooney, John-Lewis (2), Anderson

Yellow cards: Hodgkiss, John-Lewis

Referee: David McNamara

Attendance: 2,343 (47 away supporters)