CLEE Hill United boss Wayne Whitbread admits that if his side did not know they would face a real battle to retain their Herefordshire Premier Division title, they do now.

Reigning champions United started the defence of the title with a 10-0 thrashing of Bartestree but followed that up by losing 2-1 at home to Ledbury Town last weekend.

After falling behind, Clee Hill levelled through Josh Carpenter but lost out to a late goal, reaffirming manager Whitbread’s belief that the top flight will be ultra-competitive this season.

Whitbread said: “We knew we were in for a tough game as Ledbury gave us two of our toughest games last season.

“We probably had a fair amount of luck to beat them at home last season and the tides were turned this time because a draw would probably have been the fair result over 90 minutes.

“We should have been in front at half-time but we hit the post, had one cleared off the line, missed two or three chances and their keeper made a brilliant save from Charlie Edwards.

“I couldn’t fault the lads – it was just one of those days. We lost the second game of last season so let’s hope that bodes well!

“But I’m hoping the result works in a positive way for us – if there were one or two players who were thinking the season was going to be a stroll, then this is a wake-up call.”

Elsewhere, Ludlow Colts got off the mark following their promotion to the Premier Division as their ten men held out for a gritty 2-1 win over Kingstone Rovers.

Dan Crowther – signed from Ludlow’s first team – showed his class by setting up Jack Gittoes for the opener and then scoring the second, from Jake Conod’s assist, both inside the first ten minutes.

They were rocked by a harsh red card for Nathan Priday on the stroke of half-time but, after Rovers pulled one back early in the second half, a string of Regan Tonkinson saves secured Colts the points.

Joint manager Mark Tonkinson said: “It was a great team performance. It was backs to the wall but we changed formation, defended well and it was a well-deserved win in the end.”

Colts Reserves lost 6-0 at Ledbury Town Reserves in Division One but Tenbury United – relegated last season – began life back in the second tier positively with a 4-2 win at Leominster Town.

Will Clutterbuck and Toby Gittens scored but it was returning striker Mike Foster who caught the eye as he bagged a brace.

Joint boss Aaron Morris said: “Work commitments stopped Mike playing but he’s working Saturday mornings now and he makes a hell of a difference for us.

“He’s an absolute machine and I don’t believe anybody in this league can handle him."