EVESHAM United's hopes of catching second-placed Salisbury were rocked by a 2-1 home defeat to their high-flying rivals in a game of three red cards.

The Robins are now 10 points behind their visitors who have two games in hand in Southern League Division One West.

In front of Evesham's largest crowd of the season at the Jubilee Stadium of 357, Matt Bennett headed the ball off their line in the first minute after a Salisbury free-kick from the left.

Then the visitors' Owen Howe had a free header which he put way over the top of the bar.

Adam Mann failed to get a meaningful contact on Carl Brown's cross as the hosts hit back.

Salisbury substitute Stuart Green's speculative shot hit the Evesham bar and they dominated for a period.

But keeper Kevin Sawyer had to make a point-blank save from his own player Will Wellon.

Mann almost broke the deadlock with a superb shot that had keeper Charlie Searle diving at full stretch to save.

In the 31st minute, three players were sent off by referee Sarah Garratt in Evesham captain Linden Dovey and Archie Haskayne along with Salisbury’s Howe.

According to Evesham, Dovey was controversially dismissed for a foul before Haskayne and Howe followed for their reaction in the aftermath.

The game continued to be tight but in the fourth minute of first-half injury-time Lewis Benson’s low cross was tapped in by Daniel Young in a crowded box.

In the 54th minute, third-placed Evesham's job became doubly difficult when Salisbury were awarded a penalty following a foul by returning Robin Garyn Preen and George Colson gave Sawyer no chance.

Evesham struggled on and a minute later Mann's corner found Mat Liddiard whose bullet header gave him his 18th goal of the season and the hosts a lifeline.

But Salisbury, managed by former Birmingham City forward Steve Claridge, kept the ball moving to make Evesham chase possession.

With a wet pitch getting heavier by the minute and Evesham a man down, only poor finishing and gallant defending denied the visitors more goals.

Evesham: Sawyer, Dovey, Wellon, A Williams (Preen 52), Lewis, Liddiard, Haskayne, Hancock, Brown (Ebbutt 57), Mann, Bennett (Turley 45). Sub not used: Dunbar.