Mansfield Town boss David Flitcroft was scathing of referee Matt Donohue’s performance as two big decisions went against the Stags in tonight’s League Two Play-Offs semi-final first leg at Newport County, which ended 1-1.
Mansfield striker Tyler Walker looked to be hauled down when clean through after only six minutes, but home defender Mark O’Brien escaped with only a yellow card.
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Then, after Stags spent most of the game in charge thanks to a 12th minute goal from CJ Hamilton, the home side were gifted a penalty when it seemed on TV replays that Conrad Logan had got the ball before contact with Ade Azeez.
Logan saved that but could not keep out Padraig Amond’s follow-up.
An angry Flitcroft said: “They were big decisions and it’s important you get them right in these massive games as they mean so much to people.
“Tonight there will be between 50 and 70 referees sat at home not doing a lot and we end up with the referee we’ve ended up with who is probably 70 referees behind them That’s the thing I am absolutely fuming about.
“Have we been respected for a League Two Play-Off? No we haven’t, and that’s a worry.”
Looking back on the two decisions, he said: “Tyler got the wrong side of the player and the only thing he can do is bring him down. “It’s not going through to the keeper as suggested. There was only enough pace on the ball for Tyler to get in as he’s that quick.
“It’s a clear sending-off, an easy one, and the referee has missed it.
“I feel for Logan on the second decision as he’s had a brilliant game. The decision he made to come out was the right one.
“He made the save – it was ball to hand and the referee is on the spot and gives a penalty.
“I am gutted for the boys as they’ve fought and battled. They were passionate in their performance and their desire was incredible throughout the game.
“We have definitely been let down. That’s not me making excuses.”
Nevertheless, a 1-1 draw was a decent result at a difficult place to go for any opposition.
“You have to come here and battle, fight and scrap for every ball,” said Flitcroft.
“It’s coming in your box early, at pace and height, at every opportunity - every conceivable chance they get. It’s coming down your throat and we defended that excellently.
“This is a tough place to come and Premiership teams have found it hard in their cup games here. But Newport found it hard against us tonight – there is no doubt about that.
“With a bit more precision and a bit more composure we could have scored more.
“That Tyler Walker chance seals the tie. But it didn’t go in so we go again on Sunday. It’s a game we are massively looking forward to.”
He added: “There was talk of Newport taking a two-goal lead into the second game. But we looked threatening and like we had intent.
“CJ’s goal, for me, deserved to win the first tie. It hasn’t but we go back north knowing that fight and passion we’ve had most of the season was evident tonight.”