January 1, 2015
(This article is adapted from the Torquay United Express with many thanks.)
Torquay United manager Chris Hargreaves has described the decision to send off Angus MacDonald and award Bristol Rovers a late penalty in their 1-1 New Year’s Day draw at The Memorial Ground as ‘disgraceful’.
After losing to Rovers 2-1 at Plainmoor on Boxing Day, Torquay went 1-0 ahead in the 10th minute in the return game through Duane Ofori-Acheampong and were still holding on to that lead in the 82th minute when former Gull Lee Mansell sent a free kick way over the bar.
But the referee Simon Bennett was called over by one of his assistants as the players got ready for a goal kick and a penalty was awarded for a foul by MacDonald in the wall. The Torquay defender had already been yellow carded and he was shown a second yellow as United’s players protested the decision.
“If you always got a penalty for something like that you would get 30 in a game – it’s a nonsense,” said Hargreaves.
“It’s very disappointing, it’s disgraceful really. I am so angry that I have got to contain myself because I am a football manager at a club with a good history and I don’t want to say something ridiculous. “But what I will say is it is very important that we got those three points and for someone’s error to deny us the three points – human error – I feel hard done by.
“I spoke to Gus and there was nothing in it. The lad has head butted him first and they were just grappling. And in the end he said (the referee) he sent him (MacDonald) off because he swiped out at the corner flag with his hand.”
The Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho had used the word ‘scandal’ after a decision not to award a penalty during one of the Premier Division team’s games recently – and Hargreaves was asked if this too was ‘a scandal’.
The Torquay manager replied: “It is a scandal – but Jose is a multi-millionaire and I have a mortgage to pay and three kids. So there is a big difference. It means more and that’s why I am disgusted in the performance of certainly the lineman.”
The referee had already sent off two Torquay players this season and Hargreaves added: “I like Simon, the ref, he’s alright, but he has got show more strength because if 8,000 fans are calling for a penalty – you have got to be strong if it is not one.
“We had a game-plan and it worked. There were a few tired legs in the second half, which enabled them to put us under a bit of pressure, but it was nothing more than pressure and we were coping.
“The whole game has turned on that one decision.”
Captain Luke Young passed a fitness-test to start, with Hargreaves also recalling Toby Ajala and Ofori-Acheampong in attack.
United were quick to carry the battle to Rovers with the wind behind them.
Ajala, who was tireless throughout, had already fired not far over when United took the lead.
Ajala laid a Tom Cruise throw back to his left-back, Cruise’s cross looped over Ryan Bowman and Neal Trotman at the near-post, where Ofori-Acheampong controlled the ball on his knee and then, half turned, flicked it past Will Puddy with the outside of his right foot.
It was Ofori-Acheampong’s sixth goal of the season.
He and Bowman gave the home defence plenty to worry about as the contest was joined, with a series of sparky tackles going in from both sides.
Cruise came up with an important block from Nathan Blissett, after Matty Taylor had squandered a better shooting chance.
But even though both sides gave the ball away too easily at times, United looked the better side and Jordan Seabright had few scares in the Torquay goal.
Rovers were forced to make a change just after half-time when former Plymouth Argyle man Trotman went down with a hamstring injury. Mark McChrystal took over.
Seabright couldn’t hold a swerving drive by Ollie Clarke and then did well to tip a Stuart Sinclair shot over his bar.
With the wind now in their favour, and rain joining it in the closing stages, Rovers did start to pen United back, but it was hardly ‘Alamo’ stuff and the Gulls appeared to be handling whatever their hosts threw at them.
Indeed, Ajala nearly grabbed the clincher on a counter-attack with a run and shot just over the bar in the 76th minute.
There seemed to be no alarms when Mansell’s free-kick cleared everyone in that 82nd minute, and there were no great appeals for a penalty until the referee’s assistant started flagging.
But, after Bennett ordered the furious MacDonald off, Taylor drilled the penalty into the right-hand corner, as Seabright went the other way, and it was 1-1.
Krystian Pearce replaced Ofori-Acheampong as Hargreaves bolstered his defence for the last few minutes.
Harrison sent a shot wide after a smart turn, and Durrell Berry came up with a vital block tackle to stop Taylor snatching a winner in stoppage-time.
What United would have done if even a point had been take from them is anyone’s guess.