HARTLEY Wintney dropped into the relegation zone following a narrow loss in an exciting game against fellow strugglers Walton Casuals.

Hartley started well and on three minutes a corner from Josh Webb saw Matt Drage head goalwards. The ball appeared to be kept out by a Casuals defenders hand causing a huge appeal for a penalty. Referee Michael Smith waved play on.

With the Row on top a precise pass from Marley Ridge set Mitchell Parker free down the middle.

The striker forced the ball past the outrushing visitors goalie Denzal Gerrar but a back tracking defender was on hand to clear.

Two minutes later Gerrar was again in action as he stopped an effort from Jack French at full stretch.

Soon after French had another effort which went wide.

On 20 minutes completely against the run of play the Casuals took the lead. The ball was moved across the Hartley penalty box and the Row keeper Adam Desbois appeared to do well to push the ball away to safety.

However, the Casuals striker Dan Bennett went down in the process and referee Smith pointed to the penalty spot. James Ewington took the kick and scored.

Hartley responded well and laid siege to the visitors goal and on 27 minutes they pulled level.

The Row were awarded a soft free kick for apparent ‘simulation’ by a Casuals player. Josh Webb took the kick which was parried by Gerrar.

However, Hadda Zongo following in forced the ball home from close range.

The Row continued in the ascendancy and took the lead on 32 minutes.

Mitchell Parker and Marley Ridge combined well and the latter rounded Gerrar before shooting home of the near post.

However the lead lasted just two minutes.

A throw in on the right by Harry Mills saw loose play by the Row defence and Cole Brown accepted the gift and swept the ball home.

The teams went in level at half time with the Row recording 11 shots to the visitors three.

Play was more even at the start of the second period and it was the visitors who had the first effort following a free kick on 51 minutes.

James Ewington found space behind the Hartley defence and saw his effort deflected wide.

With the Casuals on top they took the lead two minutes later. The Row defence cleared and chased out in a line. Taurean Roberts lobbed the ball over the home defence to Ewington. The striker did well to control the ball and shoot past Desbois.

The Row’s claim for offside was answered with the assistant referee’s flag staying down.

Two minutes later it was take two. A long ball from defence by the Casuals found two of their strikers completely in the clear. Again the Row claimed offside and again the flag stayed down. Ewington scored easily to give the visitors a two goal cushion.

Hartley pressed hard to get back into the game and on 60 minutes Jack French latched onto a long pass and his lob over Gerrar went narrowly past the post.

The Row reduced the arrears on 69 minutes. A Steven Duff cross field pass found Mitchell Parker.

The striker held off the last defender rounded Gerrar and shot home.

With Hartley pushing forward they were caught on the break on 77 minutes with Ewington going clear. Desbois came out and made a good save.

Two minutes later a Webb free kick found the head of Matt Drage who headed over.

The home side camped around the Casuals box for the remainder of the match.

Mikey Campbell had the best chances in the final minutes. First he saw a free kick on the 18 yard line charged down and then shot over from close range following a long throw from Mark Vockins.

Joint manager Quotes: Anthony Millerick said: "I thought that the penalty should have been given for the hand ball on the line in the opening minutes.

"Unfortunately most of the key decisions went against us with the Casuals penalty looking soft."

He said: "Some of our defending was not up to standard and we were punished for it. Shipping four goals probably says it all.

"I felt we were on top for at least 30 minutes in the first half. Play was more even in the early second period and we finished strongly when chasing the game.

"All in all a disappointing result."

Next for Hartley are two homes games on Saturday Tiverton are the visitors and on Tuesday night it is Wimborne.