By Liam Chronnell
FC UNITED'S mini-blip continued after their Wembley dreams were left in pieces following their controversial FA Vase exit.
After going two games without a win for the first time in the Gigg Lane club's history prior to Saturday's third-round clash against Quorn, the rebel Reds, one of the favourites for the national competition, slipped to a hugely disappointing defeat.
But if the Division One leaders were lacklustre in their two previous North West Counties League encounters, then they could not be faulted for their Herculean efforts at the weekend against the Leicestershire visitors.
After playing the majority of the second half with nine men, assistant player-boss Phil Power looked as if he had given FC an unlikely victory when he struck with just four minutes remaining.
But Jermaine Gordon sent the tie into extra-time when he levelled matters for the Midland Alliance outfit two minutes later.
And sub Nigel Julien shattered United's hopes of reaching the final at the new Wembley stadium when he grabbed the winner with virtually the last kick of the game.
The outcome was cruel on the breakaway club, who produced a hugely spirited display after Rory Patterson's 14th-minute strike had cancelled out Paul White's early opener.
Manager Karl Marginson was certainly less than impressed with the referee Mr Duncan's performance, after the match official sent off both Liam Coyne, for his part in a 21-man brawl, and Josh Howard for two bookable offences, the second of which was innocuous at best.
"I just hope there was a referees' assessor in the stand because this referee should have to answer to someone," said an irate Reds boss.
Marginson's opposite number, Marcus Law, sympathised with the hosts after admitting there had been "nine men against 12", the Quorn manager referring to the man in black's role.
Matty Taylor, outstanding throughout despite struggling with injury, was also shown a red card in the tunnel after the game as he continued his protest after the final whistle.
If that was not bad enough, the Reds, without a game this weekend, could see rivals Salford City go above them at the top of the table, albeit having played four games more.
United's away match at Formby has been postponed after the Merseysiders could not find a suitable ground to stage the game and, in particular, cater for FC's large travelling report.
Marginson's side return to action the following Saturday, when they travel to Flixton on December 23.
United, meanwhile, hope to sign talented 21-year-old Jermaine Wright from Maine Road this week.