Lancaster City missed a golden opportunity to move into the play-off places on Saturday after a bitterly disappointing defeat against nine-man Salford City.
With teams directly above and below the Dolly Blues dropping points on the day, the defeat was especially hard to stomach for Darren Peacock’s side.
After starting brightly in the first half City’s performance degraded along with the conditions as a biting wind coupled with driving rain and a lively Salford pitch made for a poor game.
Things however started brightly for the visitors.
Garry Hunter’s free-kick found Jordan Connerton on the right side of the box who beat his man and calmly picked out Mark Jackson at the back post for the easiest tap-in of his career.
The opening stages were dominated by the visitors and they thought they had doubled their lead after 12 minutes.
Another Hunter set piece was met by the head of Connerton to flick the ball past keeper Danny Fradd but the linesman’s flag was up to the dismay of the striker.
City were then frustrated by the officiating again as Salford were awarded a penalty.
Chasing down a clearance from a Salford corner Ryan Elderton and Rob Kinsella collided on the edge of the area and as the referee allowed play to continue the linesman flagged furiously for a spot kick.
After a brief consultation the penalty was awarded with Mark Battersby coolly sending Mike Hale the wrong way to level the score.
The visitors then felt Neil Marshall’s goal-bound shot was stopped by the arm of defender Phil Edghill, but their pleas for a spot kick fell on deaf ears and were waved away.
The start of the second period was an all together quieter affair but came to life with the game’s first red card, Kinsella shown a second yellow for a high challenge on Tom Kilifin, with Hunter’s low drive from the resultant free-kick drawing a fine save from Fradd.
And Salford were down to nine men minutes later.
Gavin Clark was the first to a loose ball with winger Jamie Rother jumping in with a studs up challenge that rightly drew a straight red card.
Despite the numerical advantage Lancaster struggled to create chances and lacked composure in the final third.
Their best efforts came from a looping header from Connerton that hit the foot of the post and Hunter’s tight angle effort that drew a great reaction save from Fradd.
Despite having more than 20 minutes with nine men, to the hosts’ credit they pegged Lancaster back and when they had one chance to win it on the counter attack they took it.
With five minutes remaining Battersby seemed little threat to the City goal, but a quick turn of pace to get behind the Dollies’ back line was enough to fire a bullet shot from a narrow angle past Hale at his near post in what would prove to be the winner.
City huffed and puffed in the final stages with no real conviction and, besides the odd scramble in the Salford box, were dealt with easily by The Ammies to condemn a very lacklustre Lancaster to a dismal defeat.
Lancaster City: Hale 6, Henry 5, Marshall 5, Clark 6, Elderton 6 (Hudson 55’), Winder 5, Hunter 7, Akrigg 5 (Walker 78’), Kilifin 5, Jackson 6 (Wearing 72’), Connerton 6. Subs not used: Millar, Donnelly.