Stags boss Adam Murray was furious with referee Lee Collins over his stoppage time penalty decision that saw Mansfield Town held 1-1 at home by 10-men Northampton this afternoon.
Despite some nervy moments, it seemed Vadaine Oliver’s 48th minute goal was going to be enough to see off a Cobblers side that lost John-Joe O’Toole for flooring Ritchie Sutton off the ball on 36 minutes.
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But Mr Collins decided Ivan Toney had been brought down with the clock showing 93 minutes, though he wasn’t clear over who the culprit was, allegedly blaming Lee Beevers for a challenge made by Junior Brown.
“We have been cheated – simple as that,” raged Murray.
“He’s given the penalty against someone who didn’t even go in for the challenge.
“Their lad shoved the ball through Junior’s legs and Junior’s never moved.
“The scariest thing is that I was joking with the fourth official that because he’s sent one of their players off he would be giving every little thing their way. It is embarrassing and I am gutted for the lads.
“You can’t even speak to them (the officials) afterwards. They have half an hour to get their story right between them.
“These lads work their socks off seven days a week, so to take that away from them at the end and to have attitude with it as well is embarrassing.”
He added: “We were up against a top side and, once we’d settled down after the first 15 minutes, we played some great stuff. But this is the period we are going through.
“I think we showed second half after the goal that we are a team that are near the bottom of the table. We got anxious and I think everyone in the ground got anxious.
“It can be harder playing against 10 men than against 11. but our game plan worked for 92 minutes and we have been robbed.
“We have players in there virtually in tears, it means that much to them. It feels like we have been stabbed in the heart.
“I can’t work these boys any harder or prepare them any better. We just have to keep doing what we are doing. In life you can either lay down and die and feel sorry for yourself or come back biting.
“I have never given in to a fight or battle in my life and I am not starting now.
“It feels like a loss tonight though in the position where we are it is a very, very good point for us, but we deserved a win. It feels like it’s been taken away from us.”
The brightest part of the afternoon was a superb man of the match full debut for Mansfield by 18-year-old midfielder Jack Thomas.
“I have been saying for a long time that he has got a big future ahead of him,” said Murray.
“To come into a team that’s going through the situation we are shows his strength of character. He did today exactly what I expected of him and he will do that many more times.”
Northampton assistant manager Alan Knill said: “Obviously we are delighted to get the point in the end, but after the second-half performance we are disappointed not to get all three points.
“The ball was only ever in their half in the second half, even though we had 10 men. We were excellent considering the circumstances.
“Ivan Toney (the substitute who won the injury time penalty) was fantastic. We spoke to him the week and he has done exactly what we asked for. As soon as he came on he looked lively, mobile and held the ball up. Then he got us the penalty.
“As for Rico (Marc Richards who scored the injury time penalty , he missed his last penalty but he has just put his head down and smashed it into the net. We are delighted for him. He doesn’t worry about missing them.”
On the red card incident, he added: “I am going to give it an Arsene Wenger and say I didn’t see the incident that led to John-Joe O’Toole getting sent off.
“He said their lad (Richie Sutton) had him in a headlock and he just reacted. Until we see the referee’s report and see the incident we are not sure what we are going to do about it.
“It was a big day for him, a great occasion and it is sad the way it ended. It was going to go one way or the other. Unfortunately for us it went the wrong way.
“He is disappointed, but I would rather talk about the 10 players who stayed on the pitch and were fantastic. We took the game to Mansfield rather than sit back and thought we could still get a win.”