IT was a case of deja vu for a legendary former player who claims Mansfield Town were ‘robbed’ by the officials for the second time in a big cup tie against Liverpool.
Sandy Pate insists it was ‘like going back in time’ to see Luis Suarez’s handball end Stags’ cup dream after he played the last time the sides met back in 1970 when a controversial penalty and a disallowed goal helped The Reds through.
The defender thinks a Mansfield player would have been penalised under the same circumstances and claims the ‘bigger’ club was given the benefit of the doubt in Sunday’s encounter.
“It makes you wonder,” Pate said.
“That’s three times Mansfield have lost out due to decisions going the way of the bigger club.”
In 1970, the teams drew 0-0 at Field Mill, but Mansfield went down 3-2 at Anfield following a disallowed Dudley Roberts goal in the first match and a dubious penalty nine minutes before extra time in the replay.
And, after seeing Suarez use his hand to control the ball before putting Liverpool 2-0 up on Sunday, Pate thinks Stags were unlucky to not to get something from the game.
He added: “It wasn’t just ball to hand, there was a little bit more to it than that.
“I looked at the goalkeeper, he’s reaction told you Suarez had handballed it.
“I know exactly how the players will be feeling. When it happened to us we felt cheated and robbed.
“The current players will feel they were robbed in the same way we were. It’s disappointing, but it’s not the last time it will happen to them.
“It’s a cruel game, you don’t always get what you deserve.
“Do the officials favour the bigger clubs? I don’t know. Did the officials see the handball? Only they will know.
“But if the same incident had happened at the other end I think they would have blown for a free-kick.
“The officials got it wrong and Suarez has got away with it.”
Matt Green’s deserved 79th minute goal set up a thrilling finish, but Liverpool held on to earn a fourth round tie away at Oldham Athletic.
Pate, who is second in the all-time Stags appearance list, is certain the players and the club can take plenty of positives from the occasion.
He said: “Once the players get over the disappointment, I think they will be pleased with their second half performance. They came off the pitch with their heads held high.
“Matches like this are great for the fans, great for the town, but the league is so much more important.
“Hopefully Mansfield can carry on the way they finished the Liverpool game when they get back to playing in the league.
“Most supporters would agree, that second half was the best of the season so far.”
Fellow Stags legend Kevin Bird was holiday in Spain at the weekend but saw the match on television.
He said: “The handball was disgraceful. The big teams seem to beable to get away with murder. How the referee didn’t see it, I honestly don’t know.
“But Mansfield played really well, I was surprised just how well. The fans should be looking forward to the rest of the season.”