Hendon boss slams ‘appalling’ and ‘inexperienced’ refereeing decision in play-off final defeat

Hendon manager Gary McCann

Hendon manager Gary McCann - Credit: Archant

Hendon manager Gary McCann was left heartbroken after an “appalling” and “inexperienced” refereeing decision ruined the Greens’ promotion dream in yesterday’s Ryman League Premier Division play-off final against Margate.

The Greens were up against it at their Earlsmead home from the moment referee Jake Hillier dismissed Aaron Morgan after the forward tackled full-back Tambesong Eyong.

It was a clumsy challenge from Morgan but, with Margate captain Charlie Allen in the ear of the referee, he reached for his pocket and shocked the crowd by showing Morgan a straight red card just 15 minutes into the match.

Ryan Moss scored for the visitors on 38 minutes and the Ryman League big-spenders saw out the remainder of the match to secure their place in Conference South.

McCann shook the hand of the 27-year-old referee after the game but was not impressed by the decision-making of the man in black.

“My concerns were there before kick-off, he is a very young referee,” said the Dons boss. “When we’ve had him before, he looked a very young, inexperienced referee.

“I’m not sure if it was the Ryman League or the Football Association who made that decision, but he is obviously someone they are trying to fast-track by the looks of it. To give him a game of that magnitude is a risk and it proved to be the case. It wasn’t the right selection.

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“I don’t think there were many people in the ground who expected him to pull out a red card for that challenge. The players, supporters and both benches – not a person in the ground expected him to send Aaron off.

“The player was up within seconds and that’s no criticism to him. He played the game; he took a challenge and was hoping the player would get booked. To get a red on the back of that, I thought it was an appalling decision. It was an inexperienced decision.”

A crowd of 1,228 were in attendance at Earlsmead but the game was effectively killed as a spectacle when Hendon were reduced to 10 men.

McCann had words with Hillier at half-time but to little affect as the official continued to make a series of bizarre decisions in the second period.

“Before he sent off Aaron he booked Ryan Moss of Margate for a late tackle on Olly Sprague,” said McCann. “He then booked Olly for going head to head with Moss. If you book Olly for that, does Moss deserve a second yellow for putting his head up to Olly? The punishment should be the same, should it not? That was the question we asked during the break. Not that you ever see that happen.

“I just think throughout the game he kept making silly decisions and petty decisions - aanting to speak to players to try and show his authority when he didn’t need to.

“He never hurried the game up. You don’t expect the opposition to hurry up so you want the ref to get it moving. But listen, we would have done exactly the same if we were leading.”

Morgan was visibly distressed as he left the field after his dismissal and McCann and his coaching staff will now work hard to raise his spirits.

“Aaron Morgan is disconsolate, it is going to take a bit to pick him up,” said the manager. “I said to him in the dressing room in front of the group: ‘the reason we find ourselves in this position is a lot to do with you so be proud of where you’ve been at in the last nine months and not use what happened today as your gauge stick’.

“He feels he has let the boys down, but he hasn’t. It was a clumsy challenge – nothing more than that.”

McCann replaced Andre Da Costa at half-time, sending on Leon Smith to partner Kezie Ibe up front.

Smith’s pace and power added more of a threat to the Hendon attack but the half chances that fell their way were not taken.

“We did the same against Dulwich Hamlet when we were down to 10,” said McCann. “We went with the two bodies up top, which gave Margate a problem because it stops the full-backs pushing on because they didn’t want to leave their two centre-backs isolated, and it worked in that sense.

“You think of the one-on-one when Leon Smith was in on goal and the player made a fantastic last-ditch tackle. Kezie Ibe had a chance where he swivelled and had probably a bit more time than he thought and struck it over, and there was the Lee O’Leary chance at the back post which was blocked.

“If one of them ends up in the back of net you have an opposition who are on the back foot and rocked like Dulwich were.”

With Maidstone United winning the league and Margate now joining them in the division above, the league next season will not contain sides with such vast resources.

McCann knows 23 other managers will be pleased they will not have to compete with the duo next term.

“I’d say they’re two teams with the better resources and, to a degree, the better fanbases,” he said. “Outside of Dulwich, Maidstone and Margate are two sides that are well supported and geared for the level above.

“I had a lot of messages before the game from people who wanted us to go up morally but wanted Margate to go up professionally, because they want the big spenders out of the division.”

McCann will quickly have to turn his attention to next season with the knowledge that last year’s beaten play-off finalists, AFC Hornchurch, have recently been relegated.

“We’ve got to recover very, very quickly,” he said. “Hornchurch had a lot of problems with their ground. They didn’t play a home match for the opening 14 games, they had problems to start with.

“We will be here at Earlsmead to start with, with a view to moving across to Silver Jubilee Park once it is finished and ready – we look forward to that.”

McCann will look to keep the bulk of his squad together but, with Smith uncertain about his future and Charlie Goode catching the eye of several Football League scouts, departures may be imminent.

“The nucleus of the side will stay,” said the Dons boss. “I’m sure we will have some adjustments to make. I’m sure there will be one or two who will be tempted elsewhere.

“I think Charlie is one who is geared for bigger and better things. I don’t think he will move to another non-league club. If he moves into the Football League then we can all be happy.

“He just recently got an England call-up for the C team, who will take on the Ireland Under-21 team next month. He is a player with huge potential and he showed that again in the final. I thought he was outstanding.”

McCann added: “We will evaluate over the course of the next two weeks. I’m overly pleased with how we’ve finished. I think the squad is in a really good place. If I could go into next season with the same group of players then I wouldn’t add to the squad. I would be more than comfortable to start next season with that same group.”

McCann believes the delay in arranging the play-offs due to Enfield Town’s dispute with the FA did have an impact on his side.

He said: “You’ve got to look at what the FA have been responsible for over the last three weeks. We’ve had a two-week respite when the momentum was with us. We’ve lost Sam Murphy and Elliott Braithwaite because of the delay as they had holidays booked – two massive players for us.

“I don’t blame the league. I say it again, I blame the FA, not the league. What people don’t realise is that the break we’ve had between the end of the regular season and now is not helpful because the respite [before next season] is going to be minimal.

“We have our presentation night at the weekend and in five weeks we will be back on the training pitch preparing for kick-off on August 8.”

Having won both the Ryman League and London Senior Cup during his 10th year in charge of the club, McCann was informed before Sunday’s final that he will have a stand named after him at the club’s new home at Silver Jubilee Park.

“I’m honoured, I’m really overwhelmed. There are not many people who have stands named after them,” he said. “It is a really nice touch and I can’t thank the club and the board enough for that.”

Asked to sum up the season overall, McCann had one word: “Unbelievable, he said. “I think if we’d have said to people at the start of the season that we would win two cups, finish second and reach the play-off final, they would have batted us away. We can be proud of what we’ve achieved this year. We can hold our heads up high.”

Follow me @RobBrennan82

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