NON-LEAGUE FOOTBALL: Controversial red card ends St Neots Town’s hopes of causing a shock
- Credit: Archant
A controversial dismissal cost St Neots Town the chance of causing a major Southern League shock last Saturday.
Second-bottom Saints eventually succumbed to a 3-1 defeat at unbeaten table-toppers Berkhamsted in Division One Central - but not before giving their high-flying hosts a scare.
In fact Marc Abbott's men were dominating as they searched for a leveller in the second half when having defender Jonny Butler dismissed in bizarre fashion.
Butler was received a second caution from referee Grzegorz Konasiewicz following a 50/50 challenge in which he actually won the ball.
The official had also initially allowed play to continue for several seconds without awarding a free-kick before eventually stopping the game and issuing an unexpected punishment to the Saints man.
And salt was then rubbed into the wounds as Berkhamsted made the most of their numerical advantage to grab a stoppage-time clincher through leading scorer Lewis Toomey's second goal of the game.
"The lads were absolutely gutted to come away with nothing after putting so much into the game," said frustrated Saints chief Abbott.
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"We were the better team in the second half and gave an unbeaten team a lot to think about.
"But a crazy decision that led to Jonny being sent off completely turned the game on its head when we thought we were in with a good chance of getting a result."
Berkhamsted hitman Toomey broke the deadlock after eight minutes and the hosts doubled their advantage nine minutes before the break through Jon Lacey.
But Saints replied impressively as Prince Mutswunguma found the net with an acrobatic effort on the stroke of half-time to cut their arrears.
They continued to ask questions of leaders Berkhamsted in the second half with substitute Jake Kerins seeing a shot cleared off the line soon after his introduction.
But the shock dismissal of Butler allowed the hosts to regain a measure of control with Toomey squandering a glorious chance to kill off the contest before eventually succeeding in doing so in the dying seconds.
Saints were the only local team in action last Saturday.
St Ives Town's home clash against Hednesford in the Southern League Premier Division Central, Godmanchester Rovers' home date against Swaffham Town in the Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division and Huntingdon Town's trip to Bugbrooke in United Counties League Division One were all postponed.