OUTPLAYED by 11 men, outworked and beaten by nine – Tigers’ season hit an ‘embarrassing’ new low on Saturday.
Despite playing the final 26 minutes at Gigg Lane with a two man advantage, Worksop lost 3-1 to hosts FC United of Manchester.
The prospects of their first ever away win over the Red Rebels seemed good at half-time, just 2-1 down and set for 45 minutes against 10 men.
But the next goal was a vital one for the home side, and even another red card failed to spur Tigers on to claw their way back.
The last time Worksop Town visited Gigg Lane they were struggling for fit strikers, in the midst of an injury crisis.
This time round they had two fit strikers sat on the bench, Jamie Jackson and Massiah McDonald failing to get starts after poor form. But even when they did get on, they were ineffective.
Visiting a play-off hunting FC United was always going to be a tough task, so giving the ball away in their own half and conceding a free-kick in a dangerous position 25 yards out was hardly an ideal start, but Carlos Roca bent the ball over the wall.
It was very nearly 1-0 in the 10th minute when Roca’s deep swinging cross from the left fell behind Owain Warlow and Mike Norton headed goalwards, Sean Cuff getting a touch and Luke Shiels heading off the line.
The FC United forward wasn’t to be denied just six minutes later as a crisp passing move unlocked Tigers on the left, Stephen Johnson played in the perfect centre and Norton, in space, thumped a header home giving Cuff no chance.
Worksop looked for a response, Shiels striding out of defence and finding Burbeary who flicked over Spencer however Greg Stones cleared off the line with ease.
A brutal but fair challenge by Ryan Clarke set up a tetchy passage of play that ended in Young taking a swipe at James Cottrell.
Although the Worksop skipper missed entirely the intent was clear and he saw yellow.
Worksop’s best spell of pressure on the half hour mark saw a couple of crosses drilled into the box, and the final one was nodded at goal by Clarke, Spencer making a sharp stop.
Johnson’s pace was troubling Chris Wood and on the third occasion that he sped past the full-back he drove at goal from an acute angle, Cuff untroubled.
There was little the keeper could do with 10 minutes left in the half, Warlow unsuccessfully appealing for a free-kick as Roca sped away and crossed the ball for an unmarked Matty Wolfenden to glance a header into the corner of the net.
But Welshman Warlow made amends in the 40th minute with an unlikely yet brilliant goal.
Tigers broke through Luke Sharry on the right and although he looked to have delayed his cross too long, when he did swing it to the back post left-back Warlow was there to head superbly back across goal and beat Spencer.
Tensions erupted in the final minute of the half, Tigers boss Simon Clark receiving a shove in the back on the touchline from Norton who was looking to retrieve the ball.
Once the dust had settled and the two sides had been separated Clark’s assistant Simon Frecklington was sent to the stands, and Norton was red carded.
There could have been another sending off in stoppage time when Roca kicked out at Warlow, but referee Chris Akers showed just a yellow.
Jackson made an appearance for the second half, taking Wood’s place as Young moved to full-back and Worksop went to 4-4-2.
The two sides engaged in a 10 minute ‘feeling out’ period after the break as FC United adjusted to going a man down and Worksop switched their mindset from countering to pressing.
It wasn’t long before Mr Akers had his cards out again, flashing yellow at Johnson for a studs up tackle on Beeson.
Much to the frustration of the sizable and vocal travelling support, the 10 men of FC United went further ahead on 58 minutes, a corner from the left causing all sorts of problems and as the ball bobbled into his path Lee Neville lashed it onto the post and into the net.
But Tigers got yet another lifeline when, after a tussle with Shiels, Dean Stott threw a punch at the defender.
Somehow the officials got the wrong man, and sent Wolfenden off, enraging the home side further.
As FC United looked to lose their cool, Adam Jones was yellow carded for dissent, and then Jackson was knocked to the ground outside the box giving Worksop a free-kick.
Beeson cracked an effort goalwards and it flew inches wide of the target.
Clark pushed his men high up the field with an abundance of space appearing, McDonald skinning his marker and almost finding Jackson in the box with Spencer beaten but United cleared again.
Seconds later the ball dropped to Steve Melton and his volley cannoned off the bar.
The midfielder was on target with a header from Beeson’s corner but Spencer saved on his line.
Although an onslaught was to be expected in the final stages, Worksop couldn’t find a way through the nine men and Clark was left a frustrated and angry figure on the touchline.
Two minutes of the five that the referee added on had elapsed when Jackson’s shot from six yards was headed away from goal, and Spencer then punched the resulting corner clear.
The only incident of note in the remainder of the game was a yellow for Melton for his foul on Neville, and the whistle went to end a remarkable and bitterly disappointing game for Tigers.
FCUM: Spencer, Jacobs (Battersby 89), Neville, Cottrell, Jones, Stones, Roca (Mulholland 68), Wolfenden, Norton, Stott, Johnson (Platt 78). Not used: Grimshaw, Cheetham.
Worksop: Cuff 5, Wood 4 (Jackson 45 5), Warlow 5, Melton 4, Shiels 4, Clarke 4, Beeson 4, Sharry 4, Burbeary 5, YOUNG 5, King 5 (McDonald 59). Not used: Nightingale, Colton, Ziccardi.
Referee: Chris Akers.
Assistants: James Bell, John Oldfield.
Goalscorers: Norton 16, Wolfenden 35, Neville 58; Warlow 40.
Yellows: Roca 45, Johnson 56, Jones 65, Cottrell 75; Young 25, Melton 90.
Red: Norton 44, Wolfenden 64.