ROB Spencer suffered a sickening injury as Gresley sank to title-favourites Coalville Town at the Moat Ground on New Year’s Day.
The hard-working forward broke his jaw in a collision with Town keeper Sean Bowles, who was rightly sent off for clattering the 26-year-old.
Spencer had got to a high ball first but Bowles, who was well out of his area, left him knocked out and seriously hurt.
After a long stoppage referee Ben Cooke showed the visiting keeper a straight red card, not only for the poor challenge but also for denying a clear goal scoring chance.
It seemed that the incident knocked the stuffing out of Spencer’s team-mates and they struggled to contain Town who, despite being down to 10 men, went on to claim a comfortable win at the Moat Ground.
The win leaves them 10 points clear at the top of Evo-Stik NPL Division One South.
Gresley, meanwhile, are still fifth as they chase a play-off place.
The Moatmen made one changes to the side which hammered Mickleover Sports, with Ryan Walker replacing the suspended Michael Nottingham.
Midfielder James Jepson was on the bench after serving a three-match ban.
Coalville showed early on why they are running away with the league title as they attacked from the first whistle.
Josh Hall volleyed just over the bar and minutes later an even better chance went begging when the impressive Callum Woodward picked out Ryan Robbins, who finished the move with a dreadful shot.
Gresley began to find their feet and began to put the visitors under some pressure, with Jordan Nadat firing Spencer’s cross over.
Arguably the turning point came on 20 minutes with the dreadful injury to Spencer, who needed to be stretchered off before being taken to hospital by ambulance.
Bowles was replaced in the Coalville goal by diminutive captain Cameron Stuart.
Town brought out a good save from Gary Hateley, with the keeper pushing Robbins’ shot away.
Deep in the Gresley area Robbins was superbly tackled by Walker, who clearly won the ball fairly and cleanly, but the referee unbelievably pointed to the spot to the anger of players and supporters alike.
Woodward made no mistake in blasting the penalty past Hateley.
Gresley had chances but their low shots were easily dealt with by Stuart as Phil Massingham, Nadat and Danny Holmes all tested the new keeper out.
The hosts went close to levelling things within minutes of the second half starting as Nadat beat the onrushing Stuart to the ball but his shot from an acute angle flew wide.
With Gresley pushing forward trying to make use of the extra man they were caught from a quick break.
They were what looked a hand ball in the Coalville area and the ball flew down the other end where Robbins fired the ball across Hateley and into the bottom corner.
Woodward should have added a third for the visitors but fired well over unmarked in a very good position.
Hateley then made a good save to deny Woodward, whose superb free kick from the left looked goalbound.
Another controversial incident came with 10 minutes remaining.
Substitute Richard Hanslow, who looked to be onside when the ball was played, ran on to head Jordi Gough’s high ball over the keeper and into the net but the assistant who had earlier missed the handball denied the striker his chance, raising his flag for offside again to the anger and frustration of supporters and players alike.
Gresley got a late consolation when Nadat’s ball across the area was slipped home by substitute Marc Goodfellow at the far post.