Ben Barclay's character-building loan stint playing for Notts County is over after he was sent off at Crawley.

The Albion defender will miss the final two games of County’s desperate bid to stay in the Football League following his two-footed challenge on Dannie Bulman.

But Reds had to settle for a 1-1 draw, secured by Ashley Nathaniel-George’s low strike to cancel out an eighth-minute header by ex-Seagulls striker Craig Mackail-Smith.

Barclay, one of several Albion under-23s players out on loan, had looked comfortable on the right-hand side of a youthful three-man defence and went close with a header from a corner early in the second half.

But boss Neil Ardley was not impressed by his straight red card for a foul ten yards inside opposition territory on 54 minutes.

Ardley confirmed there would not be an appeal but said it was too early to know whether Barclay would now leave County and return to train with his parent club.

He added: “It’s a red card. As soon as it happened, it was a red card. It’s reckless and we need everyone to do their jobs for the team.

“He has let the boys down today and he knows it but he is a young lad.”

Crawley looked vulnerable themselves until very recently but wins at Yeovil and Exeter took them 12 points clear of the drop zone, which remains the case after this draw.

They are certainly in a better place than County, the club who moved in to take manager Harry Kewell off their hands early in the season.

Asked whether safety was an achievement or the bare minimum, Kewell’s successor Gabriele Cioffi said: “It was a really tough season for everyone and we are where we deserve to be.

“If you are asking did we under-perform – and, in ‘we’, I add myself, the players and the club – yes, probably yes.

“But we must not forget from where we started. Pre-season started with a different manager (Kewell), something that breaks the balance of the squad.

“I remember Ollie (Palmer, top scorer) out for five games. Filipe Morais, Mark Connolly, Lewis (Young) and I think, with a squad like ours, this makes a difference.”

Reds should really have completed a first hat-trick of wins under Cioffi but Ryan Schofield parried a Nathaniel-George shot and Reece Grego-Cox somehow failed to touch home Young’s terrific cross.

Mackail-Smith’s far-post finish followed a slip by Morais which allowed Matt Tootle to chip the ball across from the byline and County looked in charge.

But Nathaniel-George cut inside Mackail-Smith's effort to track back and shot low past Schofield to level 11 minutes later.