Cottesmore Amateurs joint manager Steve Duffy declared Saturday’s 4-3 victory at Ashby Ivanhoe as his side’s best display of the season.
Amateurs were down to ten men after just a quarter of an hour with the dismissal of Gary Drake and they were later reduced to nine when Fred Stannard saw red with 15 minutes remaining.
Yet Cottesmore held on to beat one of the sides that had outside hopes of catching leaders Rothley at the top of the Leicestershire Senior League and Duffy was delighted.
“The commitment, work rate and attitude was top drawer,” said Duffy. “There were guys on their knees at the end.
“I could not ask for any more. That has to be the best performance of the season. At times it was Ashby who looked like they had nine men.
“The first red was difficult for me to see but it was a reckless tackle by Fred. I’ll often argue black is white but that was a reckless challenge.”
Harry Stannard, Dave Gordon, Matt Panter and Jake Culverwell were on target at Ashby whose defence was opened up early as the Rutlanders made the ideal start.
Rob Mason played in Stannard for the first goal after twisting and turning his way past Ashby’s full back after just five minutes. Stannard’s lob was inch perfect to put the Rutlanders ahead.
Fred Stannard then hit the post with a header before Ashby levelled. Drake was sent off for handball on the line and Ashby pulled back from the penalty spot.
A man down, Cottesmore kept up their tempo and went back in front when Harry Stannard broke through late in the first half. His shot was blocked but Dave Gordon picked up the rebound to put Cottesmore back in front.
Jordan King had been forced into a couple of decent saves before the hosts levelled for a second time, capitalising on what Duffy reckoned was a moment of poor defending from his side.
“Their boy finished it well and I thought ‘now we will be up against it’,” admitted Duffy.
But far from playing as if they were outnumbered, Cottesmore pulled ahead once again, with Matt Panter arrowing a great header from the penalty spot into the top corner of the goal.
Fred Stannard received his marching orders after a poor tackle that Duffy agreed merited the instant dismissal, and Cottesmore were forced into a 4-3-1 formation but even then Cottesmore created chances. Gordon and Culverwell both forcing saves from Ashby’s keeper before Culverwell broke through to make it 4-2.
Ashby scored a third late on to set up a tense finale but Cottesmore held on for three excellent points.
Cottesmore travel to third-placed Kirby Muxloe Reserves on Saturday. Cottesmore won 1-0 when the two sides met at Rogues Park in October.
Cottesmore: Jordan King, Callum Pauley (Ben Kind), Gary Drake, Andy Teare, Jamie McKay, Dave Gordon (Richard Giblin), Matt Panter, Fred Stannard, Rob Mason, Jake Culverwell, Harry Stannard (Martin Smith). Sub unused: Ian Harrison.