A NINTH-MINUTE red card for Liam Hughes put the skids under Bradford (Park Avenue) as they slid to their 13th league defeat in 18 games, losing 3-0 at home to Leamington.

It was a controversial dismissal and as Leamington slotted in the resulting penalty, it was a double whammy for the National North bottom side.

That left Avenue 2-0 down and a man down with ten minutes on the clock and time ticking down on their hopes of escaping the drop, even though the season is not yet at the halfway point.

They are four points adrift at the foot of the table after this loss to a side who were struggling themselves, having lost their last four league games prior to their Horsfall visit.

Disappointed boss Mark Bower said: “The game was gone after nine minutes.

“I asked the assistant referee what it (the sending-off) was given for and he didn’t know. I had looked right at him when the whistle went and he hadn’t flagged so it must have been something the referee saw.

“I think their lad has been very clever and used a bit of contact to go to ground and the ref has bought it. That’s the bit that’s subjective, the decision itself, but that leads to the sending off because if it is a foul then Liam has denied a goal scoring opportunity and the punishment for that is a red card.

“It took us a while to settle down after that but when we did, even with ten men, it was a close game. They weren’t cutting us open and creating chances. I don’t think Joe (Green) had a lot to do apart from the goals.

“We got the lads in at half-time and we just said keep going, keep the concentration levels and continue to work hard for the team.

"I can’t fault the players for their effort, it didn’t drop and we kept our shape so they did keep working. Leamington had one ball over the top and got the third goal.

“I think the defeat was partly self-inflicted though as we keep giving soft goals away which means, when you’re not scoring goals yourself, you’re always climbing mountains.

“We can’t do anything about the second goal, that’s a refereeing decision, but the first was a free header from a corner and the third was long ball over the top that has caught the defence out and let their lad through on goal.”

It had been a positive opening eight minutes for Avenue before the Brakes took the lead. Avenue felt they should have had a free-kick but nothing was given and Leamington forced a corner which Joe Clarke delivered and Josh March nodded in at the near post.

A minute later March just failed to reach a low cross and he went to ground in front of keeper Green. The referee deemed that Hughes had impeded him, with a hand on his shoulder and he pointed to the spot, March getting back to his feet to convert the penalty after Hughes was sent off.

Bower made a change late in the first half as he took striker Dan Sweeney off, replacing him with centre back Josh Heaton and sending utility man Adam Nowakowski up front.

The Brakes put the game beyond doubt when they netted their third goal just minutes after the interval. March timed his run and raced clear of the Avenue defence before slotting in a low drive past the diving Green for his hat-trick.

*Avenue announced before the game than Jon Moran and Brad Dockerty have gone out on loan, joining Stafford Rangers and Pontefract Collieries respectively.

Cieron Keane and Kemy Agustien have also left the club following short spells.