Russell: The ref had a nightmare
THE referee had a nightmare: That was the verdict of March Town United co-manager Alan Russell after he saw his side dumped out of the FA Cup on Tuesday evening. The Hares 2-1 replay defeat at St Ives in midweek left Russell reflecting on an eventful e
THE referee had a nightmare:" That was the verdict of March Town United co-manager Alan Russell after he saw his side dumped out of the FA Cup on Tuesday evening.
The Hares' 2-1 replay defeat at St Ives in midweek left Russell reflecting on an eventful extra preliminary round game that included three penalties and two sendings-off.
For the second time in a week, the two evenly-matched teams played out a pulsating match, but while Saturday's 3-3 draw at the GER was dominated by goals, Tuesday's replay was dominated by controversy.
A crowd of 195 packed into Westwood Road and the home fans were given something to cheer just nine minutes in to the match when Graeme Thackray was brought down in the box and Chris Ewles netted his spot kick.
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The Hares showed their fighting spirit to come back, and they levelled the scores when Teddy Rimmell converted the second penalty of the match. Saints keeper Rob Mackney's delayed clearance outside the box allowed Paul Shafer to steal the ball and Mackney brought down the March striker.
The visitors' confidence grew, but the game was turned on its head early in the second half.
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The referee awarded his third penalty of the match when a shot from Saints' Dan Newman bounced up and appeared to hit Paul Cousins on the arm. Again, it was Ewles who stepped up to convert from the penalty spot.
And just three minutes later the match boiled over as the referee reduced both sides to 10 men.
Saints' Ian Fovergue received his marching orders for spitting at Harry Roe, and controversially, Roe was sent off for retaliation.
Neither side could fashion a meaningful goal-scoring chance but Danny Leafe almost grabbed a dramatic late equaliser with a shot that hit the bar.
Russell said: "If the referee looked back on the game he would realise that he had a nightmare of a game.
"It was turning into a good game but he completely spoiled it.
"After the sendings off he lost control of the game and the loss of a player hurt us much more than it hurt them.
"I spoke to Harry and he said that he was spat at so he pushed the player away but when I spoke to the referee he told me that he had sent Harry off for grabbing the player's throat.
"I am not sure how the first penalty was given, but to be fair, the lads did say that there was a handball for the second penalty.
"It is disappointing to be out of the competition but I am not disappointed with how we are playing. We are improving with every match."
The replay came about after an exciting 3-3 draw at the GER on Saturday - a game that attracted more than 180 fans and the BBC's Look East cameras.
Saints drew first blood with Lewis' goal after 17 minutes, and although March equalised through Teddy Rimmell's tap-in, the home side were stung by two St Ives goals in the final five minutes of the first half.
Ewles ended a good move to restore the visitors' lead and just two minutes later, Ewles fired in his first penalty of the week when he was brought down in the box.
However, March were much improved in the second half and their pressure was rewarded with Paul Shafer's goal after 52 minutes.
And it was Shafer who forced the game to a replay when he unleashed an unstoppable shot from the edge of the box five minutes from time.
Tomorrow (Saturday), March are back to league action with the home game against Long Melford. On Tuesday, they travel to Ely City.
Russell is hopeful that Lawrie Brand may return to the squad and Michael Couzens should recover from a slight knock.
However, Ben Russell is doubtful for tomorrow's game after picking up an injury on Tuesday.