Linfield 2 Ballymena United 1
Under-fire referee Andrew Davey has vowed to apologise to furious Ballymena United boss Glenn Ferguson if he got a controversial penalty call wrong — but denies doing the Sky Blues out of a point in Saturday’s County Antrim Shield final dress rehearsal against Linfield.
Bangor official Davey is one of several referees fast-tracked by the Irish FA this season and he has quickly built up a reputation as one of the best in the business, despite his relative inexperience.
His decision to award Linfield — who were already a goal up thanks to ex-Sky Blue Nathan Hanley — a spot-kick a minute before the break on Saturday, however, has made sure he is under the spotlight for other reasons.
While home boss David Jeffrey backed the man in the middle for spotting an apparent foul by Gary Thompson on eventual scorer Gary Browne, Ferguson accused Davey of a glaring mistake, claiming he was the only person inside Windsor Park to see the infringement.
In fairness, not one Linfield player instantly appealed for a spot-kick but Davey blew his whistle immediately.
“I saw a foul and was in no doubt it was a penalty,” said Davey. “Glenn Ferguson was not happy and spoke to me but I have given him my word I will apologise if I have made the wrong call.”
Ferguson (pictured) also claimed Davey had an exchange with Ballymena defender Davy Munster after the game and that the referee allegedly poked fun at a missed opportunity in the second half when David Cushley wasted a glorious chance just before Aaron Stewart’s consolation strike.
The manager’s outburst is almost certain to land him with an IFA rap, but he insists it is time someone put their head above the parapet instead of whispering about officials behind closed doors.
“Our defender, Davy Munster, spoke to the referee about the penalty incident and all he said was: ‘What about David Cushley’s miss?’,” explained Ferguson.
“Ultimately his decision cost us a point. But will he be held accountable? No chance. I am so disappointed. I have asked for a public apology if he feels he has made the wrong decision.
“We all talk about referees behind closed doors but something needs to be said on the record now. We didn’t get a point because of the referee’s performance.
“I will probably be the one who gets into trouble and it is the referee who has made the mistake.”
Davey’s version of the conversation wasn’t exactly the same.
He added: “I told Davy Munster I thought it was a penalty, so I gave it. I also said that decision was not the reason they lost the match, because they did have chances to score.
“As for asking if we (referees) are accountable, you would need to ask (IFA referees’ chief) Alan Snoddy.
“As far as I am concerned we are. There are referees not getting games every week; I don’t get a game every week and we are assessed. As I said, if I have made a mistake, I will apologise.”
Meanwhile, Jeffrey admits a few fringe players have played their way into his thoughts head of tomorrow night’s final.
“We saw the game through which was very pleasing and it showed the strength in character of the team,” he said.
“We have spoken to them individually during the week about performances and I was delighted with the response and there are a number of players who have staked a claim for a starting place in the final.
“We are determined to win the first final of the season, as we are any competition but it is fair to say it could be a bigger boost than ‘just a trophy’, given the inconsistency we have shown so far this season.”