NON-LEAGUE FOOTBALL: Wisbech Town rue refereeing decisions after league defeat to Ilkeston Town
PUBLISHED: 20:37 25 January 2020 | UPDATED: 20:37 25 January 2020
Wisbech Town were victims of a series of unfortunate decisions, including a bizarre red card, in their quest for step four survival on Saturday.
Striker Charley Sanders was sent off along with four other cautions, including boss Kev Ward, as the Fenmen went down 2-0 to Ilkeston Town in the Northern Premier League South East Division.
Former Wisbech loanee Mason Lee opened the scoring with a close-range header, before Kole Lambert sealed a first win in seven games for the Robins eight minutes from time.
A physical encounter on a worn pitch at the Elgoods Fenland Stadium exploded into life after half-time, but referee Thomas Harvey had to be alert throughout a flurry of hard-hitting challenges.
Had the tackle on John Dean from Ilkeston full-back Billy Bennett and Alex Marshall's 37th-minute headbutt on Fenmen skipper Sam Spencer were punished, however, this may have lifted the frustration among the hosts having controlled proceedings after falling behind.
But Wisbech did not allow these decisions to affect their approach as Jack Keeble and Danny Draper tried to pull the strings from midfield, with man-of-the-match Bradley Fortnam-Tomlinson causing a nuisance up front.
Ward included four new additions to his squad, including goalkeeper Muhammed Otuyo, but the Mickleover man was responsible for Lee's opener after failing to catch Fabian Smith's in-swinging free-kick on three attempts.
This failed to dampen Town's mood on a day where aerial balls took charge over intricate and perhaps easy-on-the-eye ground play, with clear-cut opportunities few and far between.
That forward mentality continued after the break, but a late goal-line clearance prevented Sanders tapping home what seemed to be a destined equaliser moments into the second-half.
Fortnam-Tomlinson began to show his threat on his first full start since arriving from Loughborough Dynamo, and with better service may well have headed the hosts level.
Then cue the controversy. First, Sanders was penalised for an accidental handball before Ilkeston's Kieran Wells, who had earlier smacked the crossbar received a second booking for a needless foul.
A stop-start second period then saw Sanders given his marching orders three minutes later for a late challenge, a decision that Ward labelled as "disgraceful".
It was expected, then, for the visitors to confirm a fifth straight defeat for Ward's men courtesy of a 'route one' pass which evaded the home defence, before substitute Lambert slotted home to the delight of the travelling supporters.
Despite an optimistic display, Wisbech Town are still looking up towards safety but although they may ponder on poor officiating, they certainly have the tools required to put up a fight.
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Wisbech: Muhammed Otuyo, Aaron Hart, Ollie Gale, Layton Maddison (sub Jay Whyatt, 71'), Sam Spencer ©, Jack Keeble, Tiago Nassunculo (sub Liam Marshall, 71'), Danny Draper, Charley Sanders, Bradley Fortnam-Tomlinson, John Dean (sub Nathan Rudman, 90').
Unused subs: Olly Stevenson, Khaya Roudette-Gregory.
Goals: Ilkeston Town - Lee (17'), Lambert (82').
Cautions: Wisbech Town - Sanders (handball), Otuyo (foul), Gale (foul), Whyatt (foul), Ward (dissent).
Sent off: Wisbech Town - Sanders (handball + foul).
Ilkeston Town - Wells (two fouls).
Man of the Match: Bradley Fortnam-Tomlinson.