A Michael Emery red card opened the floodgates for Lincoln United as they lost 2-0 against Tadcaster Albion on a wet afternoon at Ashby Avenue.
The Whites’ keeper was sent off for a high foot when claiming the ball in the 52nd minute.
Tadcaster took advantage of having an extra man, scoring twice in the following 20 minutes.
United had gone into the game second in the Evo-Stik First Division East, having played an extra two games compared to most of the surrounding teams.
With Tadcaster in third, the Whites knew a win would be important to keeping up in the race for promotion and brought in a large crowd with a “bring a friend for free” ticket scheme.
In the first half it looked like the increased support might pay off, with Matt Cotton and Scott Matthews creating chances down the left.
Twelve minutes in, Paul Grimes ran onto a ball over the top of a high Tadcaster line of defence, but the Brewers’ goalkeeper Leon Pohls was quick to come out and clear the ball.
The Whites continued to have good chances. In the 32nd minute, Josh Nichol just cleared the crossbar with a shot from the edge of the box.
However, the two biggest opportunities of the first half would fall to the visitors.
In the 36th minute, the Brewers hit United on the counterattack and switched their play to an unmarked Ellis Barkworth on the right side.
The full back had plenty of time and space to run into the area and chose to shoot across goal. To his and most at Ashby Avenue’s shock, he missed and gave the Whites a huge let off.
Tadcaster’s other big chance came with minutes to go before the break, as the ball worked its way to a yellow shirt in the United box, however the shot went narrowly wide of the left post.
After a minute of added time, the referee, Jamie O’Connor, blew the whistle and called an end to a goalless first half.
The two sides came out of the dressing rooms to restart on a wetter pitch, the heavens had opened over the break making the playing conditions a lot harder.
Initially, Lincoln took advantage of the conditions. Paul Grimes had a massive chance to open the scoring in the 48th minute when he shot from close range, but Pohls pulled off an outstanding save to deny the United number 10.
Then came the match defining moment. 52 minutes in, Joe Lumsden ran through on goal down the right and appeared to be taken down by Emery who, after some discussion, was told to take an early shower.
Oliver Sinclair replaced Tom Garrick and took Emery’s place in between the sticks, who is likely to miss the next three matches.
The keeper was immediately put under pressure with the red card’s resulting free kick, but it was fired into the side netting.
Tadcaster swiftly took advantage of having the extra man, scoring through a Lumsden rebound – his 14th goal of the season.
The rain fell heavily but the Whites’ spirit didn’t. They responded to going 1-0 down with a host of chances. First Pohls excellently denied another Grimes shot, then from the resulting corner the Whites came close again.
United were always going to be up against it when they went down to 10 men, and in the 74th minute Aiden Savory doubled the visitors’ lead with a low shot into the bottom corner.
The Brewers almost made it three just minutes after the game restarted, but Sinclair made a brilliant save with his legs.
Despite Lincoln’s best efforts to find a way back into the game, the visitors held strong and took all three points.
The result means Sam Wilkinson’s side have dropped to 5th place, while still having played extra games on the teams around them.
Lincoln United travel to Belper Town next week, looking to bounce back from today’s defeat.
After the match Sam Wilkinson said: “It’s a disappointing result, we created a lot of chances and you’ve got to take your opportunities against teams like Tadcaster.”
Match report: Aaron Mayhew