SALISBURY City boss Darrell Clarke lambasted the referee for getting “bullied” into a contentious handball decision which has given Chelmsford City the upper hand after the first leg of the Blue Square Bet South semi-final play-off.
Clarke was raging after he was informed by the referee at full time, after approaching him, that Ricky Wellard’s handball wasn’t deliberate.
“I’m speechless,” admitted Clarke. “I asked the boys before the game to make sure we are still in the play-offs when we play the second leg at the Ray Mac.
“They defended like warriors on a rugby pitch, in fact it’s more of an athletics pitch where javelins and discuses are thrown.
"I knew what to expect when we came here.
“But the penalty decision is difficult to stomach, considering how hard everyone in the football club has worked all season.
“After the game I asked the referee if it was a deliberate handball and he said ‘no’ and told me Wellard’s arm was in an unnatural position.
"I said to him what are the rules of the game and he said for a penalty to be awarded it has to be deliberate.
“Ultimately the referee got bullied into it, there was a massive crowd shout and he caved. The FA need to ask questions about themselves, there were many spectators watching, relying on a referee who doesn’t know the rules of the game. We’re clearly despondent by the decision.”
The winner of the second leg, who will be decided in the next 90 minutes on Saturday (3pm), will feature in the Conference South play-off final on Sunday, May 12 (3pm).
And Clarke issued a rallying cry to Whites fans.
“It’s a different ball game on Saturday,” he said.
“It’s going to be entertaining.
“All I ask for is that everyone gets down to the Ray Mac.
“Bring your friends, cousins and partners, I want to hear so much positivity from the crowd and let’s see if we can turn this clash around.
“Our home form’s been good but it goes out of the window in the play-offs.
“We have got to be brave, defend well and be better than Tuesday.”