NANTWICH Town's disappointing start to the season continued as they crashed out of the FA Cup in a controversial extra preliminary-round tie on Saturday.
Stratford Town, of the Midland Alliance, left Jackson Avenue with a 2-1 win as Nantwich played for almost an hour with 10 men.
Nantwich captain Melford Knight was sent-off in the 37th minute when he received his second yellow card for retaliation after a Stratford player seemed to make contact with Dabbers player-manager Nigel Gleghorn while he was lying injured.
It could have been all so different for Nantwich, who could have scored twice in the opening two minutes with Danny Griggs flashing a drive just wide and Knight having a header turned round the post by Roland Barnes.
But it was Stratford who made the early breakthrough with a fifth-minute goal.
Darren Beckett sped down the right, drawing Simon Pay to narrow the angle, and when he pulled the ball back, Scott Darroch had the simple task of stroking it into an empty net.
The Dabbers levelled in the 17th minute when Griggs set up Wes Wilkinson wide on the left and the Nantwich striker showed enterprise in catching the keeper off his line from 25 yards.
Nantwich felt Darroch should have been sent-off following his clash with Gleghorn but it was Knight who took an early shower, leaving Nantwich under-manned.
Stratford made their numerical advantage tell after the break and it came as little surprise when, in the 64th minute, Danny O'Toole's cross picked out Brian Gray, who restored the visitors' lead.
O'Toole rattled the post and Darroch missed a golden opportunity to extend Stratford's lead, while Wilkinson and Otis Thomas sent chances just off target for Nantwich.
Nantwich: Pay, Westwood (Thomas 72), Hall, Gleghorn, Jardine, Vickers, Brookes (Buckle 46), Knight, Dawson, Wilkinson, Griggs. Booked: Knight, Gleghorn, Vickers. Sent Off: Knight.
* Nantwich hosted Salford last night. They visit St Helens Town on Saturday and Mossley on Tuesday.
* After losing 3-1 at home to Whitchurch Alport in a Mid Cheshire League Division Two match last Wednesday, the Dabbers' Reserves bounced back with a 6-0 win at Cheadle Town Reserves on Saturday. Nantwich's second string host Warrington Boro on Saturday.
* ANDY Park struck twice to give Alsager a share of the spoils from a 2-2 draw at Salford City on Saturday.
The game turned on its head in the 63rd minute with Salford 2-0 up and seemingly on course for victory.
Chris Willcock's penalty was saved by Rob Powner and from the resulting attack, Salford defender Matt Duffy was sent-off, throwing Alsager a lifeline.
First-half goals from Francis Vaughan and Scott Weir put Salford in command.
Following Duffy's dismissal, Park put Town back in the game with clinical finishes in the 73rd and 83rd minutes.
Willcock had the chance to atone for his missed spot-kick with a late one-onone, but again Powner came out on top to ensure Alsager came away with a point.
Alsager had also picked up a point from last Wednesday's derby with Congleton Town.
Chris Burke put Congleton ahead with Wayne Brotherton equalising 10 minutes after the break.
Alsager had chances to win the game after Congleton were reduced to 10 men, but they lost striker Craig Redgate who broke his arm in the closing stages.
Alsager were at Glossop last night and begin their FA Cup campaign with a preliminary-round clash at Ossett Albion on Saturday.