PHIL Parkinson rallied round top scorer Jordan Hulme after a straight red card for the Altrincham striker proved a turning point in their 1-0 FA Trophy defeat to Stockport County at The J.Davidson Stadium on Saturday.

With the prospect of a strong wind at their backs in the second half, Alty were hopeful of overturning County’s slender advantage, until being rocked by a controversial 45th-minute dismissal for Hulme, who caught Jamie Stott with his studs as the defender lunged into a sliding challenge.

Referee Elliott Swallow deemed the contact to be deliberate and gave danger man Hulme his marching orders, leaving 10-man Alty to battle gamely but in vain for an equaliser.

It looked a harsh decision, according to Alty boss Parkinson, who said: "I didn't think it was a straight red.

"If you look at the way the lad has cleaned Jordan out and the fact it had been a physical contest between them up to then, maybe common sense could have been used.

"I’m not justifying anything Jordan has done, but I see far worse than that week-in, week-out, and perhaps the ref could have booked him, and warned him, and let them battle it out.

"I don’t want to comment too much on it, because Jordan has been outstanding for us this season, but he has let himself down. He knows that and has apologised to his team-mates.

"But he’s a human being, not a robot. He gets booted up and down every game without any protection and, like any player, he has a breaking point.

"The thing is, though, that’s part and parcel of the game.

"He knows that, so I hope he learns from what has happened."

With Hulme facing a likely three-game ban, Alty will need all the spirit and resilience that nearly salvaged a replay, as they prepare to face Darlington in the league at home on Saturday.

"I thought the 10 men were outstanding," added Parkinson.

"I was pleased the players who came in – all first-teamers, not reserves – showed they’re up for it, if needed over the busy Christmas period."