Leiston exit FA Cup after controversial home defeat to Gloucester City

Leiston (blue shirts) v Gloucester in the FA Cup at Victory Road.
Goal keeper Ashlee Jones walks of

Leiston (blue shirts) v Gloucester in the FA Cup at Victory Road. Goal keeper Ashlee Jones walks off in shock after a straight red card

Leiston were left cursing their luck at referee Neil Hair’s decision to send goalkeeper Ashlee Jones off on Saturday, as the Blues exited the FA Cup.

A controversial call, the decision ultimately cost the Suffolk side dear as they bowed out of the prestigious competition at the third round qualifying stage.

Former Lowestoft Town stopper Jones received his marching orders following a late coming-together with Gloucester winger Joe Hanks, giving away a penalty.

Many inside Victory Road were whispering in disbelief when the referee decided to punish him with a red card however, as the winger’s shot had clearly already gone wide before the collision.

After George Miller calmly dispatched the spot-kick past Jones’ deputy Ben Vincent, National League North side Gloucester’s progression was never in doubt despite a brave display from Leiston in the circumstances.

The visitors, who play a step above Leiston, started the brighter, with the Blues’ back-four kept on their toes at all times.

But Joe Jefford and co were powerless to prevent Gloucester from opening the scoring and gaining a numerical advantage when referee Hair awarded a game-changing penalty and red card.

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Leiston players protested in vain, arguing that Hanks had already seen his clean shot go wide before colliding with Jones, but to no avail.

The Blues were then actually the better side up until the interval and should have levelled in the 35th minute when John Sands somehow miscued from close-range after a terrific Patrick Brothers cross.

Feeling rather aggrieved and with their tails up, Leiston continued to press, with Sands unable to find an end product on the stroke of half-time with bodies everywhere.

However, the Suffolk side fell further behind four minutes after the re-start when Jonte Smith ghosted in from the left and squirmed a deflected shot under the body of Vincent into the net.

The higher-level visitors were then relaxed, passing it around a Leiston side growing increasingly tired.

Vincent made a smart save from Lewis Hall in the 67th minute, but was powerless to prevent Joshua Cooke from putting the result beyond doubt moments later as the striker broke the offside trap to latch onto Smith’s pass and coolly finish.

Determined to make a fight of it in front of a big crowd, Leiston pushed with a late onslaught as Jefford nearly bundled home.

Leon Ottley-Gooch blazed over from a good position before Tom Bullard was awarded a 81st-minute penalty following a shirt-tug from Gloucester skipper Matt Williams.

Player-assistant Stuart Boardley, who enjoyed a fine game in central midfield, took responsibility from the spot, bundling home the rebound after his spot-kick was parried by Jasbir Singh.

Gareth Heath then saw a close-range shot blocked, before Leiston could have had another penalty when Williams seemed to handle but referee Hair was uninterested.

And while it was a thoroughly professional performance from higher-level Gloucester, it was a day of ‘what if’ for Leiston, with Ipswich Town now the only club left flying the Suffolk flag in this season’s FA Cup.

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