David Flitcroft did not hold back in his criticism of referee Charles Breakspear after the first leg of the playoff semi-final at Newport ended all square but suggested the FA were at fault for not appointing a top class official for the game.
Mansfield took an early lead when CJ Hamilton finished a slick counter-attack in the twelfth minute but felt Newport defender Mark O’Brien should have seen red after he hauled down Tyler Walker with the young striker seemingly clean through on goal.
The Stags’ anger at the referee reached boiling point when he awarded a penalty to Newport after keeper Logan clipped Azeez with the speedy frontman running in on goal. Logan appeared to get the ball first, and the Sky Sports cameras showed the referee had an obstructed view of the incident, but the decision stood and despite the impressive Logan saving Amond’s attempt he could hold onto the ball, and the striker smashed in the rebound to draw things level late in the game.
Speaking to the Mansfield Chad after the game, Flitcroft argued that the referee was out of his depth in such a big game and the fault lies with the FA for not appointing a top class official. ‘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.’
The clearly angry Flitcroft added on BBC Sport: “We’ve been positioned on a Thursday which gave the Football Association an opportunity to give us a hell of a good referee.’
Newport manager Michael Flynn concurred with his opposite number after seeing strong penalty appeals for a Neale Bishop handball in the first half waved away. He told BBC Sport: ‘I don’t know why we didn’t have one of the top 20 professional referees here. If we want to grow the game that would’ve made sense to me.’
Anyone who watches League Two football regularly will know the standard of officials is generally poor.
Both managers made excellent points about the appointment last night calling into question the respect the FA has for lower league football.
These are games with peoples jobs on the line and deserve the best officials the FA can provide.