St Ives Town manager Ricky Marheineke was left with a bad dose of FA Cup déjà vu last night.
The Saints were stung by a ridiculous dismissal and a stoppage time leveller as they were held to a 1-1 preliminary round deadlock by lower-level Norwich United at ProEdge Westwood Road.
It was a match where plenty of comparisons could be drawn to the same round of the same competition last season.
St Ives led at Dereham Town only to have Will Muzuimbiri pick up a second caution for needlessly conceding a penalty. They were pegged back and then dumped out on penalties in the replay.
Twelve months on and a similar fate could await them after striker Danny Watson went from hero to villain for Marheineke’s men.
He fired them ahead against the reigning Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division champions just before the half-hour when applying a fine finishing touching to the slickest of team goals.
Jack Higgs had rolled the ball into the former England Schoolboys striker who flicked into the path of latest signing Peter Clark, spun away from a defender to collect a return pass and coolly slotted past goalkeeper Duncan McAnally.
It was one of very few moments of quality in a match St Ives led until Watson collected a dismissal rightly described as ‘stupid’ by his manager.
Watson was yellow carded for grabbing at an opponent and received a further warning from referee Alistair Wilson for protesting the decision.
Then, less than 60 seconds later and with a quarter of an hour still remaining, he threw himself into a challenge that was instantly greeted with a second caution and a red card.
The 10 men of Saints soaked up plenty of pressure and goalkeeper Tim Trebes made a couple of smart saves but, just when it looked as though they might scramble over the line and into the first qualifying round, they were hit by a sucker-punch.
Visiting striker Matthew Blake unleashed a bouncing 20-yard drive in the second minute of stoppage time that had the beating of Trebes and nestled into the corner of the net.
Had it not been for a headed goal-line clearance from Charlie De’Ath in the final attack of the game, Saints may well have been studying the wreckage of an early exit rather than preparing for a second chance in a replay.
Marheineke admitted: “The FA Cup curse continues for me.
“Last season at Dereham we were comfortably winning until picking up a stupid sending off and it was the same again last night.
“Danny let down the team down with his dismissal and there is no doubt in my mind we would have gone on to win the game with 11 men.
“Norwich United were not threatening us and their equaliser was only their second or third shot on target of the second half from memory.
“It’s a draw which feels like a defeat and my job now is to try to lift the players.”
He’ll have to do that by Wednesday when they travel to Norfolk for the replay.
St Ives: Trebes, O’Malley, Jarrold, Gentle, De’Ath, Marango (sub Seymour-Shove), Higgs, Knight, Draycott (sub Eason), Clark (sub Warwick), Watson. Unused: Moyes, Simons.