Frickley Athletic pushed Evo-Stik Premier League leaders Blyth Spartans, but went down to a narrow 3-2 defeat in an eventful game at the SW Jackson Utilities Stadium.
After being 2-0 down the Blues fought back to draw level and seemed set for at least a share of the spoils before Blyth grabbed a 73rd minute winner in a game spoiled by some over zealous refereeing which led to dismissals for Jameel Ible and Luke Hinsley for the Blues and Andrew Cartwright for Blyth and numerous yellow cards.
Blues boss Karl Rose brought in new signing Steven Jeff at left-back while dual-registered Louis Bruce came in at right-back and Jacob Hazel returned up front alongside Brad Grayson.
On a wet winter evening Blyth had the first opportunity in the fifth minute, but Sean Reid dragged his shot wide from just inside the box and Robbie Dale then saw his curling 18-yard shot easily collected by Sebastian Malkowski.
The visitors took the lead on 12 minutes when the Blues’ defence failed to deal with a ball into the box from the left, leaving Daniel Maguire to fire past Malkowski from 10 yards.
Hazel went close to equalising for the Blues four minutes later when Tyler Williams headed Tom Davie’s cross back across goal for Hazel to volley just over the bar from six yards.
Chances were evident at both ends as Michael Richardson headed an inswinging free-kick by Dale over the bar for Blyth while Hinsley saw his first time 25-yard shot deflected just wide.
Almost immediately Blyth broke away down the left with Maguire and Bruce going shoulder to shoulder before Bruce brought Maguire down as he burst into the penalty area. Robbie Dale stepped up to convert the penalty in the 27th minute.
Malkowski was forced to tip an audacious 40-yard effort from Richardson over the bar in the 38th minute before Blyth were reduced to 10 men following the 41st minute dismissal of Cartwright for receiving his second yellow card.
The Blues pulled a goal back in the 45th minute when Hazel’s attempted through ball was blocked but as the ball bounced back towards him he hit a terrific first time shot from 40 yards that flew over Fabian Otte and bounced into the net.
In the final minute of first half added time Dale forced Malkowski to punch away a powerful 30-yard free-kick.
Frickley had legitimate claims for a penalty for handball turned down in the 59th minute when Grayson’s attempt to control a high ball and turn inside the box was blocked by an arm.
Ible was harshly sent off on 63 minutes after receiving his second yellow card of the evening by the card-happy official, but three minutes later the Blues got their reward when Grayson’s cross into the box was flicked on by Tom Davie for Hazel who was tackled with the loose ball falling to Williams who fired into the bottom left hand corner from eight yards.
Two minutes later the lively Maguire forced Malkowski into a smart low save while shortly afterwards Hazel tried his luck with a 30-yard free-kick for Frickley, but Otte collected the ball under the bar.
Davie fired a low 18-yard shot against the left hand post on 72 minutes, but disaster struck a minute later when Richardson sent over an inviting cross from the right for Matthew Wade to head past Malkowski from close range.
The Blues pushed forwards looking for an equaliser, but Blyth continued to threaten on the break, Dale going close in the 82nd minute when he broke into the box before being denied by Malkowski.
Hinsley received his marching orders after picking up his second yellow card in the third minute of stoppage time. He mad made up a lot of ground to track a break by substitute Arran Wearmouth and appeared to get a touch on the ball as Wearmouth went to ground but referee Mr Benton rather hastily produced a second yellow card and subsequent red.
Frickley Athletic: Sebastian Malkowski, Louis Bruce, Steve Jeff (Chris Wood 77), Luke Hinsley, John Cyrus, Jameel Ible, Tom Davie, Ross Armstrong (Sam Akeroyd 84), Jacob Hazel, Brad Grayson, Tyler Williams. Unused subs. Luke Hornsey, Macaulay Parkinson, Jon Hood.