ALDERSHOT Town's dream of a fourth successive FA Cup first round appearance was shattered by one controversial refereeing decision, which ruined a potentially-exciting end-to-end cup tie.

Goalkeeper Nikki Bull received his marching orders on 39 minutes when adjudged to have brought down Mark Stein in the area, after the former Chelsea striker had controversially beaten the offside trap.

The Shots defence believed the professional foul rule shouldn't have been brought into play due to their position in the box and the angle of Stein's run, but referee Woolmer, following consultation with his assistant, still brandished the red card to the horror and dismay of Shots supporters everywhere.

Bull's reactions to the decision now look likely to land him in hot water with Brown after angrily confronting the linesman on a reluctant walk back down the tunnel and then mouthing expletives to the Aldershot dug-out when told to take his punishment quietly.

Brown said: "I was disappointed with the boy's reaction to the sending off because it's his job once he's sent off, to walk off. There's a little discipline problem there and I'll sort that out with Bully.

"The decision was contentious in as much as we thought we had people behind the goalkeeper when he went round him and we thought the ball was going out of play anyway.

"But to be fair, I can understand the referee giving it, some you get, some you don't.

"But the game hinged on more than just that one incident because if we'd have had a replacement keeper in today, we certainly wouldn't have conceded those three soft goals in the second half. I think, in those respects, not having a recognised goalkeeper hurt us more than being a man down.

"That said, I was very pleased with all the boys out there. I thought they got the ball down and passed and worked as hard as they could to nullify the fact that they were a man down."

With Gareth Howells out for eight weeks following an operation on a troublesome groin injury and reserve-teamer Ben Lauder-Dyke pulling a thigh muscle in the warm-up, boss Terry Brown had no option but to put striker Paul Moody between the sticks as a makeshift keeper.

The resulting penalty by Junior McDougald gave Dagenham an undeserved lead, and despite the brave efforts of the Shots youngsters, it also proved to be the death knell, as three goals in eight second-half minutes put a flattering edge to the scoreline.

Arguably, to the letter of the law, Bull should have walked. But if FA or UEFA chiefs believe decisions like these do justice to a perfectly even game of football, then they should only look at this match as an example that it quite clearly doesn't.

Under the circumstances, a penalty and a booking would have sufficed and not one person in the 2,549 crowd would have had a complaint — their complaints were aimed elsewhere.

Ten minutes into the game, the ugly face of football reared its head once again, dragging reputations down with it.

Unconfirmed reports suggest that ten or so men donning black woolly hats found their way to the back of the Dagenham East Bank section early on, with one sole intention in mind.

According to some by-standers, these men pulled down their hats to reveal balaclavas, and they began wading into the Dagenham supporters before running off.

One Aldershot steward, Sam Young, was punched and kicked in the fracas and was taken to hospital with internal injuries, although released later.

On the pitch, battles were also ensuing. Nick Roddis was beginning to make the midfield his own with another powerhouse display, while the front three of Moody, Roscoe D'sane and Jamie Taylor were causing all sorts of problems.

Indeed, Roddis, with a 22-yard curling effort and Taylor, with an attempted chip over Tony Roberts' head, came closest to giving the Shots the lead, while Karl Ready should have done better with a free header which he directed straight into Roberts' arms.

Bull, prior to the incident, had clutched a Danny Shipp shot from underneath the crossbar and deflected a Stein effort for a corner.

But Aldershot's woes started on 29 minutes when D'sane limped off with a recurrence of his calf injury, giving young Michael Harper the chance to prove his worth.

Nine minutes later, disaster struck. Shipp threaded a ball through to Stein, makeshift defender Lee Holsgrove stopped to appeal for offside, leaving Stein clean through.

The linesman kept his flag down, Stein went wide to round Bull, who pulled him back from behind.

The consultation with the linesman, Bull's slow walk-off and Moody taking over the goalkeeper's jersey from Holsgrove, lasted four minutes before MacDougald sent the former Fulham and Oxford striker the wrong way from the spot.

Credit to the Shots though, they battled for their lives and actually looked more likely to score in the 15 minutes after the break with Harper just beaten to a loose ball eight yards out by Daggers skipper Lee Matthews.

But when substitute Danny Hill, on for the injured Stein, latched onto a ball on the right hand by-line, twisted and turned Jason Chewins and fired low into the bottom far corner of the net, all their efforts looked in vain.

Three minutes later, Paul Bruce exposed the vulnerability of Moody in the Shots goal with a 25-yard free kick, which just nestled inside the post.

At this stage a rout looked on the cards — a fear confirmed four minutes later as Hill's free-kick into the box was slid home by the on-rushing Matthews.

Brown's men never stopped running but by now the game was sadly petering out, and the potentially-explosive cup tie had prematurely ended in disappointment, much like Aldershot's money-spinning cup dreams.

SHOTS: Bull; Buckle, Chewins, Ready, Sterling, Cooper (sub Parker 72mins), Roddis, Taylor, Moody, D'sane (Harper 29), Holsgrove. Not used: Kuhl, Carroll, Nutter.

DAGGERS: Roberts; Potts, Smith, Matthews, Bruce, Heffer (sub Rooney 67mins), Terry, Janney, Stein (Hill 45), McDougald (West 67), Shipp. Not used: Lomas, Vickers.

Ref: K Woolmer. Att: 2,549.