Andy Pearson saw red for Burgess Hill Town as they lost league leaders Hampton and Richmond Borough at the Green Elephants Stadium.
It was always going to be a tough task for Ian Chapman’s men but when Pearson was sent off for handling on the line on 20 minutes, their task became near impossible.
Hampton looked like a big side and they started to impress themelves early on and when Jamal Lowe was cynically fouled by Dan Pearse, they packed the box. Fortunately for Hill Tom Beere’s free kick missed everyone.
Josh James watched a Nicke Kabamba lob go wide before he was tested by Leon Soldman’s powerful 20-yard drive.
On 13 minutes, referee Jack Packman had a big decision to make when an awkward bounce saw James handle the ball outside the box. The visiting fans were calling for a red but Packman made the right call and gave a yellow.
From the resulting free kick it looked like the tall Moussa Diarra had scored for the league leaders.
But he used his hand and Packman got the yellow card out again.
On 18 minutes a red card did appear from Packman’s pocket.
After a scramble in the Burgess Hill area, Brendon Kiernan’s shot beat James but Andy Pearson blocked it on the line, unfortunately he used his hand and there was no other option but for him to get his marching orders.
Tom Jelley dispatched the penalty with ease.
But heads did not drop and just five minutes later a superb Budd free kick found Joe Keehan, who headed home to the delight of the home fans.
The visitors then began to dominate and should have gone into the break ahead but a combination of the woodwork and keeper James kept them out.
And it was almost the Hillians who went in ahead after James Fraser’s header found Pat Harding, but he hit the side netting.
It only took the visitors seven minutes into the second half to take the lead. The dangerous Kiernan found himself space in the Hillians’ box before he slotted home with ease.
It was a disappointing goal to let in after how well Chapman’s men defended in the first half.
It was hard to see how Burgess Hill could get back into this game and Chapman bought on Chris Smith to replace Pearse to add some firepower.
And on 62 minutes Smith found himself clear after a great run from Pat Harding, but keeper Mark Smith saved well.
But Hampton and Richmond were still well in control and could have gone fuirther ahead when Beere found himself with space in the box but once again James came to the Hillians’ rescue.
Callum Overton and Cam Wiltshire came on for Budd and Kirkwood respectively and added a spark as Burgess Hill began to put pressure on the visitors.
And it was Overton who had a golden chance to equalise with a minute to go but his goalbound shot was blocked.
Towards the end it appeared Hampton were hanging on against the 10 men.
But it was difficult for the home side to break down the Hampton defence.
Hampton skipper Keiran Murphy was sent off right at the end for dissent. But it was too little too late for the Hillians.
With 11 players for 90 minutes, it may have been a different story.
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