HIGHGATE United fell three points behind Midland Football League Premier Division leaders Hinckley after losing 3-1 at home to Bromsgrove Sporting.
A third consecutive league defeat leaves Highgate’s season of promise in danger of unraveling as Bromsgrove seized the initiative to close the gap between the two to four points.
Saturday’s second versus fourth encounter failed to live up to its top of the table billing but it was the visitors who made the most of their hosts’ failure to defend set pieces and Gate’s own cause was not helped by the first half sending off of Nathan Edgington.
The hosts created the first chance of the game when Michael Crawford headed the ball on for Lei Brown’s shot to clear the bar from eight yards out.
And in the ninth minute Gate opened the scoring when Tom Lacey’s free kick glanced off centre half Scott Turner’s head to drift in between keeper Jake Bedford and his left-hand post.
The goal had come after a period of Highgate pressure but the home side had a let off when Sporting midfielder Reece Hewitt struck the outside of the woodwork from a 25-yard volley.
On 19 minutes the visitors were back on level terms thanks to Will Tibbets, whose corner deceived everyone and sailed into the far corner of the net.
Brown fired his own free kick narrowly over the bar after being sent tumbling 20 yards out and goalkeeper Jake Bedford rised well to pluck Lacey’s corner off Brown’s head.
But for a second time the home side were to be punished from a dead ball situation when Simon Fitter’s 32nd minute free kick was headed back across goal by Sam Wills for Craig Jones to react quickest and force the ball in from close range.
Things were to get worse for Ashley Pulisciano’s men when Edgington received a 36th minute red card for what appeared to be a reckless rather than malicious challenge.
The ten men faced an uphill struggle in the second half but they continued to create chances.
Turner won a 47th minute header in the box but with no fellow red shirt able to react and Crawford then sent a header goalwards but his header was blocked by a defender’s boot.
Ten men Gate were more than holding their own against a Sporting side failing to make the most of their numerical advantage.
Nathan Pulisciano’s high up and under was headed back by Brown for Crawford to hook a first time shot wide and Lacey was not far off target after being set up by Crawford.
But as Gate searched for an equaliser they were hit on the counter and conceded a third 13 minutes from time when an unmarked Tibbetts sealed his side’s win with a header from five yards out.
On Saturday Highgate are at home to Alvis Sporting before travelling to Littleton on Wednesday evening.