SLOUGH Town’s return to Southern Premier action following their FA Cup adventure did not go as hoped following a rare 4-2 home defeat to Bishop’s Stortford.

On a day of contrasting fortunes for teams in the top six, Slough were left counting the cost after losing Nathan Smart to a red card and Sean Fraser and Matt Lench to injury, leaving them to chase the game with nine men late in the second half.

The early pressure at Arbour Park on Saturday was all Slough’s, but Stortford took the lead against the run of play with Afolabi Akinyem’s header taking a massive deflection off Smart which wrong-footed Jack Turner before bouncing into the net.

Slough responded and were a constant threat with cross-field passes releasing Warren Harris out on the right.

On one such occasion, the winger expertly controlled Wells’ long pass before seeing a low shot saved by Tyler McCarthy.

Slough Observer:

Slough Town go close against Bishop's Stortford.

Then Chris Flood scuffed his attempted volley from James Dobson’s corner and Smart went closer still when his effort, also from a Dobson flag-kick, was cleared off the line.

By this point Slough had already lost Fraser, who was forced off and replaced by Josh Jackman.

And while the home side continued to carry the greater threat, Slough needed Turner to make a crucial save from Darren Foxley as Stortford broke away.

But Slough’s deserved equaliser arrived five minutes before the break with Dobson side-footing past McCarthy from Harris’ low ball into the middle.

Slough joint-bosses Jon Underwood and Neil Baker would have been relatively satisfied with their side’s first-half display.

But the visitors then caught Slough cold in spectacular style at the start of the second half.

Jason Williams fired a 25-yard thunderbolt into the roof of the net after a neat one-two with Foxley to put Stortford 2-1 ahead.

Slough responded as Harris saw a shot blocked behind before Wells played a perfect ball across the face of goal, but none of the Rebels players had gambled and the chance went begging.

But Slough’s hopes of a comeback were further dented with a double blow on 64 minutes.

Smart was caught in a race with Williams as he bore down on goal, and was adjudged to have fouled the striker, resulting in a red card as the last defender.

To make matters worse, up stepped Southend United loanee Tom Clifford who beat Turner with an expert strike from the free-kick to make it 3-1.

And Baker felt the decision changed the course of the game: “We were doing okay at half time, but the sending off was a really poor decision,” he said. “It was possibly the turning point of the match.”

Slough Observer:

Injury-victim Matt Lench is helped off the pitch against Bishop's Stortford. 

Rebels also had a superb double-save Turner minutes later to thank for keeping them in the game. Slough introduced the returning Brad Wadkins in place of Manny Williams and, despite being a man light, they remained a threat.

Stortford almost put the game beyond doubt, Turner making a vital stop from Dean Ager.

A tense finale was in prospect when Wadkins reduced the deficit to just one on 77 minutes, heading Dobson’s corner past McCarthy with the ball bouncing in off the far post.

And just minutes later the big striker slid the ball across goal, but Lench was inches away from making contact.

Yet Slough’s hopes of salvaging something were dashed as Lench was forced off on crutches with an ankle injury and, with the home side having made all their substitutions, it was nine men against 11 for the closing stages.

Akinyem slammed over a golden chance for Stortford, but they sealed the win with a fourth from Williams in stoppage time.

Meanwhile, Slough’s league fixture at Hitchin Town was postponed on Monday due to snow. Rebels return to league action this Saturday when they travel to leaders King’s Lynn Town (3pm) before they host Wantage Town in the Berks & Bucks Senior Cup on Tuesday night (7.45pm).