I never threw a punch in Crusaders tie insists Carrick boss Gary Haveron
Carrick Rangers boss Gary Haveron insists he's still 'baffled' as to why he was dismissed in Tuesday's night's dramatic 4-3 win over Crusaders at the Belfast Loughshore Hotel Arena.
The victory inched Carrick into 10th place in the Danske Bank Premiership - one point above Ballinamallard United and five clear of basement boys Warrenpoint Town.
It also asked serious questions of Crusaders' aspirations of retaining the title they won for the first time in 18 years last season.
Should Linfield defeat the Mallards at Windsor Park tonight, the gap at the top of the table will be cut to a mere two points.
However, Carrick's result against the champions was tarnished right at the finish when a mass brawl involving all 22 players - and the entourage in both dug-outs - developed, which resulted in red cards for Haveron, his skipper Aaron Harmon and Crusaders defender Josh Robinson.
"I never threw a punch - I didn't hit anyone," insisted Haveron. "Yes, there was a lot of pushing and shoving, but there were no punches thrown. I simply held one of their players off. I basically held on to him to make sure things didn't get out of hand.
"Every member of the Crues bench ended up in our area. I have asked for a review of the television coverage. Hopefully the referee (Tim Marshall) will do that."
Haveron said that Robinson's tackle on substitute Ben Roy wasn't "all that bad" but added: "You would probably have got away with it years ago, but not under the current rules.
"When you are off the ground with your studs showing, even if you get a little bit on the ball, it's now classed as reckless.
"Obviously it was at a critical stage of the game and tempers were on a thin edge. But I'm still baffled as to why I was red carded."
Crues boss Stephen Baxter preferred not to get caught up in a slagging match over the incident, but did say: "There were a few things that went on that I wasn't happy about.
"They are difficult to comment on, so I'll leave it at that."
Baxter was also angry at his team's "generous" defending, claiming they gifted Carrick three of their goals.
He added: "We left ourselves vulnerable to the counter-attack.
"We have a Northern Ireland international at centre-back (Colin Coates) accompanied by a player (Robinson) who is aspiring to play in England.
"It's uncharacteristic of them to make the mistakes they did - you don't expect it. We are trying to win a championship. You've got to score, but you can't leave yourself vulnerable at the back as we did. We committed terrible mistakes to gift them their goals.
"Credit to Carrick. They worked incredibly hard and deserved their win."
In contrast, Haveron believes the result will give fresh impetus to his team's survival bid.
"We can't afford to rest on this," he added. "If you go out and beat the current champions, you have to be able to back it up.
"I don't think anyone saw the result coming, apart from the boys in our dressing room."