VALE of Leven boss Hugh Hamill believes Saturday’s West of Scotland Cup tie was turned on its head following Iain Muir’s controversial sending off.

3-1 up and cruising, the Vale full back was adjudged to have brought down the Ashfield striker inside the box, resulting in a sending off for preventing a clear goalscoring opportunity.

However, Hamill wasn’t confident that referee, Liam Butler, made the right call.

He said: “We had started incredibly well, and we were comfortably ahead against what is a very good Ashfield side.

“But, for some reason, the referee decided to send off Ian Muir for being last man when he brought down their striker. He did bring him down but I thought the challenge was made outside the box and a bit harsh, but then again the ref was closer to the incident than me.

“It turned the tie completely.” Early strikes from Kenny Wilson, Alan Brown and Kenny McNaught eased Vale into a comfortable 3-1 lead within 22 minutes but the sending off in the 28th minute combined with the penalty being converted put paid to further progress in the tournament for the Millburn Park side.

Despite being reduced to 10 men the home side continued to press into the second half and could have extended their lead was it not for the in-form Ashfield keeper.

In the end Hamill’s men ran out of steam, conceding twice in the last half hour, but Hamill said he was proud of his side’s performance.

He said: “It is a hard one to take but I can’t say a bad word about the boys.

“They performed admirably against a team two leagues above them and more than held their own. I firmly believe that if it wasn’t for the sending off we would have won the match but the West of Scotland Cup is a big tournament and these things happen.

“But the boys were great and I am proud of the way they played.” Vale of Leven: Smith, Muir, Monaghan, Wilson, Lacy, Cowan, Brown, McLachlan, Stillwell, Arthur, McNaught, Subs: Willis, McDonald, Wardle