Steve Kittrick watched his Matlock side fall to a 2-1 defeat against his old club Scarborough Athletic in controversial circumstances at the Proctor Cars Stadium on Tuesday.
The Gladiators had fought back from a half time deficit, Paul Walker scoring in the 19th minute, to level through Luke Hinsley on the hour.
With Matlock looking the more likely winners, Sheffield referee Lee Hible showed Piteu Crouz a red card in the 80th minute which stopped the hosts’momentum.
The punishment should have been a yellow card at the very worst before there was more doubt when Scarborough stole the extra two points in the 88th minute through Chris Dawson.
Matlock claimed an offside during the build up which the assistant didn’t see.
It all ended with an upset home crowd who booed the referee off at the end and a third successive defeat.
After their excellent victory at Whitby 10 days earlier, nobody would have forecast this losing run and it showed how quickly fortunes can alter in football.
Crouz replaced Jordan Sinnott in the sole change from the team beaten 1-0 at Lancaster on Saturday.
Matlock initially set out well but lost their way in the mid part of the first half before an encouraging late rally towards half time perked them and the crowd up, hopeful of a better second half.
The Gladiators maintained their improvement in the second half and a draw would have been a fair outcome as Matlock did not do enough to claim maximum points.
Matlock’s positive start unfortunately failed to yield any clear cut opportunities but it was the homesters breathing a little heavily in the fourth minute when Jon Stewart was off his line quickly following a blocked clearance, the referee spotting an infringement to award a Matlock free kick.
Jack Rea’s snapshot was inches too high in the 18th minute, but Matlock were behind almost immediately when the tricky Coulson broke free on the right and Walker had the easiest of chances to fire in the low centre from close range.
Dwayne Wiley put in a vital saving tackle to avert a dangerous attack before Rea retired hurt and Spencer Harris seemed to strengthen Matlock’s midfield.
A Crouz free kick was desperately kept out by goalkeeper Tom Taylor with the loose ball being scrambled clear before Taylor was out to clutch another low delivery by Crouz.
A tight start to the second half followed with Stewart being surprised by Walker’s cross from the left which was forced clear, this coming after Taylor comfortably gathered a further Crouz free kick.
But Town levelled when Hinsley rose to glance a firm header beyond Taylor from a left wing corner from Crouz.
A carbon copy of the equaliser nearly led to Matlock going in front on 67 minutes, Hinsley this time nodding narrowly wide from a Crouz corner.
Matlock were denied a potential dangerous opportunity when the referee pulled play back for a foul as Marshall broke clear and after Crouz again drove tamely at Taylor from a free kick, Crouz was given his marching orders.
An over reaction from the Scarborough bench followed as Crouz challenged Kian Spence who having looked to be seriously injured, was soon back up on his feet once the red card had been issued.
Scarborough went on to get the winner when midfielder Chris Dawson finished off a cross from the left, Matlock maintaining there was an offside in the initial build up.
Matlock fought hard for a game saver but Scarborough held out for a win which could kickstart their season. Meanwhile, Matlock’s has gone awry in the last three games, although the controversial red card for Crouz was crucial here.
Matlock slipped to seventh in the table and badly need a win in the home Non League Day derby with Mickleover on Saturday.
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 Jon Stewart 2 Josh Lacey 3 Ben Gordon 4 Jack Rea (14 Spencer Harris 35) 5 Bailey Gooda 6 Dwayne Wiley 7 Marcus Marshall 8 Luke Dean 9 Luke Hinsley 10 Sam Scrivens 11 Piteu Crouz Other subs: 12 Adam Yates 15 James Williamson 16 Jordan Sinnott 17 Scott Smith
SCARBOROUGH ATHLETIC: 1 Tom Taylor 2 Kian Spence 3 Wayne Brooksby 4 Peter Davison 5 Dom Roma 6 Isaac Assenso 7 Ryan Watson (12 Tnique Fishley 79) 8 Chris Dawson 9 James Walshaw 10 Michael Coulson 11 Paul Walker Other subs: 14 Luke Lofts 15 George Walmsley 16 David Merris 17 Tom Morgan
REFEREE: Lee Hible (Sheffield) ATTENDANCE: 419 BEST GLADIATOR: Luke Hinsley.