Manager Ricky Marheineke reckons a controversial refereeing decision cost St Ives Town a piece of history yesterday.

George Bailey gets in an effort on goal during the FA Cup clash between St Ives Town and Grantham Town. Picture: LOUISE THOMPSONGeorge Bailey gets in an effort on goal during the FA Cup clash between St Ives Town and Grantham Town. Picture: LOUISE THOMPSON

Marheineke’s men were on course to reach the third qualifying round of the FA Cup for the first time when leading fellow Step 3 side Grantham Town at Westwood Road, but they had to settle for a 1-1 draw and a replay after being reduced to 10 men.

The visitors levelled late on following the hotly-disputed dismissal of Saints man Munashe Sundire. He received a second caution from referee George Laflin with 15 minutes remaining after going down in the box - despite appearing to be clipped by the leg of a visiting defender.

It was a decision that angered Marheineke and the referee’s subsequent explanation did little to improve the mood of the Saints boss.

“It’s a game-changing incident,” said Marheineke. “It is a penalty all day long and instead we end up having a player sent off.

St Ives Town striker Dylan Wilson challenges Grantham Town goalkeeper Theo Richardson. Picture: LOUISE THOMPSONSt Ives Town striker Dylan Wilson challenges Grantham Town goalkeeper Theo Richardson. Picture: LOUISE THOMPSON

“I could understand it if Munashe had dived, but he didn’t. The referee told me he gave him the second booking for initiating contact but that is nonsense.

“How can an attacking player initiate a defender sticking his leg out in the 18-yard box?

“That decision is the difference between us having the chance of going 2-0 up from the spot and winning the game, and having to go to Grantham for a replay.

“But we’re just going to have to go there and finish the job on Tuesday now.”

Saints had earlier looked comfortable as they defended a lead provided by Robbie Parker late in the first half.

Their skipper earned and converted a 43rd minute penalty after being clumsily bundled over by Grantham captain Tom Ward.

George Bailey rifled over from a tight angle early in the second half as Saints looked to double their advantage before Ward headed over from a Jack McGovern free-kick as Grantham attempted to level.

That set-piece came after Saints midfielder Owen Wallis was fortunate not to be dismissed for a cycnical trip when already on a yellow card. He was wisely substituted moments later after being given the most final of warnings by referee Laflin.

Grantham began to apply pressure as the second half wore on, but Saints always looked threatening on the break and it was following one such attack that they went down to 10 men.

Striker Dylan Wilson beat visiting goalkeeper Theo Richardson to a long clearance, but after being pushed wide he chose to cut the ball back into the path of Sundire rather than go for goal.

When Sundire then hit the deck the match changed in an instant and Grantham were level only five minutes later.

Only the brilliance of Saints keeper Sam Wilson, who pulled off a double save to keep out Luke McCormick’s low blast and Cenk Acar’s follow-up ensured Saints didn’t fall to what would have been the cruellest of defeats.

But Saints will have another chance to make progress on Tuesday as a first-ever meeting of these two clubs is swiftly followed by another clash.