Eastbourne United 6 Morpeth Town 1 FA Vase Fifth Round
A CONTROVERSIAL red card left Morpeth fuming as their Wembley dream died on Saturday.
Referee Andrew Laver, of Portsmouth, made his mark after just 90 seconds by sending off Town midfielder Jordan Fry for allegedly throwing a punch at a home player.
The incident in question occurred when Franklin of Eastbourne put in what looked an extremely bad tackle on Steven Anderson and as the two players got to their feet there was a squaring-up, although each player kept their hands by their side.
Issues escalated when Eastbourne’s Dartnell and McClean rushed to the scene, with Fry trying to put himself between Anderson and Franklin.
Fry appeared to do nothing wrong and Morpeth are set to appeal his sending-off to the Northumberland FA after reviewing video footage, but Mr Laver brought out the red card after speaking to the assistant referee, who was standing over 70 yards away.
The match from this point went from bad to worse for the Highway Men. Although they tried hard to shake off what had happened, they simply could not find their normal playing rhythm.
After seven minutes, a free-kick was swung into the box and Wayne Buchanan, under pressure from McBride, headed into his own goal.
Morpeth started to come back into the game at this point and following a good move involving Sean Taylor and Steven Forster, Michael Chilton hit the bar with a powerful header, only for the ball to rebound to safety.
Then what seemed to be a stonewall penalty was denied following a Featherstone handball, which the referee and his assistant ignored.
Eastbourne then took charge and scored three more times, including a wind-assisted shot from 35 yards, to make it 4-0 at half-time.
In the second half, Town came out with a new determination and pressed Eastbourne back and within five minutes they hit the bar, with Forster firing in a 20-yard drive from the right.
Then after 55 minutes, Forster got clear on the right to give Young in the Eastbourne goal no chance. Town again hit the bar soon afterwards through Chilton before a great 20-yard effort from Marc Lancaster skimmed a post.
But the game was effectively over for Morpeth when both Anderson and Shaun Bell were sent off within five minutes of each other for two bookable offences.
The Highway Men, now with only eight men, continued to battle, but two late goals from McBride and Tate sealed the issue.
Morpeth manager Nick Gray said: “Eastbourne had a game plan to get stuck into us hard and rattle our normal game.
“To go down to ten men was a huge influence on the match and it was in our opinion a total injustice and this had a major effect on all of my players – we never recovered from it.”