Match officials bowed to pressure from Tranmere supporters, says Stevenage boss

Graham Westley

Graham Westley - Credit: Archant

Graham Westley’s men blew a two-goal lead at Prenton Park as a 96th minute equaliser denied them the win

Graham Westley says match officials bowed to pressure from home supporters in Stevenage’s 2-2 draw with Tranmere Rovers.

Boro went into a two-goal lead thanks to a Michael Ihiekwe own goal and a Lee Barnard strike, but after Steve Jennings had pulled one back for the hosts Ihiekwe then equalised deep into injury time to deny Stevenage the win.

The equaliser came in the 96th minute after the fourth official had signalled a minimum of five should be played.

Yet despite there being another stoppage in injury time when Westley’s assistant, Dino Maamria, was sent to the stand, the Boro boss was unhappy with the amount of further time added on.

The Stevenage boss was also displeased with what he believed to be an inconsistency when it came to bookings and fouls, claiming that Tranmere should have had a centre-half booked early on for a foul on winger Charlie Adams.

“I could point to countless examples of incompetence,” Westley said.

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“You look at the foul that was given against [Lee] Barnard at the edge of our box, and then you look at the foul at the other end in the second half. It’s exactly the same challenge.

“Charlie Adams, when counterattacking [earlier in the game], is pulled back. He gives the free-kick in the end, but no card. It’s a big issue a centre-half playing on a card, it makes him vulnerable and gives you a chance to expose him but he gets a free one.

“But then [Chris] Whelpdale goes in the book for his first offence. I could go on and on and on.

“If I took you through the game and showed you all of the decisions that were made by the crowd it would get embarrassing.

“Again we’ve seen an official bow to home pressure. It’s not often that you turn to the fourth [official] and say ‘I just can’t believe what I’m watching in the middle’ and I used the word ‘ridiculous’ and he said ‘I can’t disagree’.

“You know what happens in a game of football when five [minutes] go up on the board the team can perhaps decide to just hold on to what it’s got and sit back and perhaps for five minutes you might do that.

“If you saw seven go up on the board you probably wouldn’t. You would take a different mentality wouldn’t you?

“You might say it’s only a minute or two but a minute’s a long time in football, and we’ve seen the goal go in over six minutes into added time when five went up.

“The fourth official said ‘well I can explain the 30 seconds when he gave Lee Barnard a yellow card’; well he’s wasted next to none there.

“That’s five and a half minutes then all of a sudden there’s the kafuffle in the dugout. I spoke to Dino about it, I had my back turned to the situation but he assured me that the ball was behind him and the player came and barged into him and he’s sent to the stand. The player get a yellow. Make me understand that.

“There was decision after decision after decision, and when you’re facing that you’ve got to be strong, you’ve got to be resilient. It’s part of playing away.

“We talked about home advantage in the week and what it can do and these decisions make a big difference to a game. They’ve affected things again, no question about it.”