Belfast Telegraph

Hamilton in ref rage

Lurgan Blues boss insists official should not have been in charge as Linfield bounce back

Marching orders: Controversial referee Mervyn Smyth sends off Linfield’s Seanan Clucas and Glenavon’s Kevin Braniff
Marching orders: Controversial referee Mervyn Smyth sends off Linfield’s Seanan Clucas and Glenavon’s Kevin Braniff

By Ian Callender

Gary Hamilton feared the worst when Mervyn Smyth was appointed as referee for Glenavon's game against Linfield on Saturday and nine yellow cards and four reds later he was vindicated, if not sated.

The result, a first defeat in four games and Linfield's first win in four, just added to his pain.

The Glenavon player/manager, who named himself as one of his five substitutes, never got the chance to influence the match, having to watch the last hour from the stands after being dismissed for persistent dissent.

But after Smyth's last appearance at Mourneview Park - which was also his last Premiership match - four weeks ago, it was the inevitable scenario.

Hamilton had gone out of his way to try and prevent it, actually ringing referees chief David Malcolm last week, suggesting that it was unfair to appoint Smyth to this high-profile game, with his last visit still ­­firmly fresh in the memory.

That day, he had to come out and explain himself for audibly congratulating himself for playing the advantage which led to Glentoran's winning goal.

Nothing was heard from Smyth on Saturday but plenty was seen in a game which was competitive but never dirty and erupted only in the 92nd minute when a mass brawl preceded red cards for Seanan Clucas, four minutes after coming on, and Kevin Braniff.

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There was still time for the worst tackle of the game by James Singleton but, by that stage, according to Hamilton, frustration had set in.

"The game changer was the tackle from behind in the box on Ciaran Caldwell, shortly after we equalised. That wasn't given and Linfield went up and scored the winner. But anybody watching that game would have seen a good, hard, honest game of football and, although there was something on the far side of the pitch which you don't want to see in football, I don't think the players caused that, although they will get the blame," said Hamilton, who went on to explain why he rang the referees' boss.

"The only reason we shout at referees after what we feel is a bad decision is because of our passion and desire. It's not because we don't like them. I respect referees and know how difficult their job is, that's why I went and spoke to David because I thought it wasn't fair to put Mervyn in that position today."

Opposite number Warren Feeney, who also had his assistant Andy Todd sent from the dug out, agreed it wasn't a dirty game.

"There wasn't a bad tackle in the game," he said.

"It was 11 against 11, the desire was there from both teams. Referees have a job to do. There was a big crowd and good atmosphere. You just want consistency. Some things you say in the heat of the moment which you probably shouldn't, but you have a right to say what you think."

As for the game, Feeney was delighted with the character his players showed throughout the 94 minutes, coming off the back of three defeats.

"It was something I've never questioned, they have a desire," he added.

"I thought (Mark) Haughey was fantastic today, big Sammy (Morrow) defended from the front and I couldn't question anyone from one to 18. We are still unbeaten away, now we just have to sort out the home form.

"It has got to turn, get them used to Windsor again. I have every belief it will and the way we kept going today for the whole match is what pleased me most."

Linfield led from the 19th minute, a sweet finish from Andy Waterworth after a perfect weighted first time pass from Morrow, and it would have probably have been doubled on the half hour if Waterworth and Aaron Burns' roles had been reversed.

Unfortunately for the Blues, the striker fed the midfielder and his shot from a great position was horribly wide.

Glenavon's second-half pressure was rewarded with a 76th minute equaliser, albeit with Smyth again the centre of attention.

He ruled that Niall Quinn's attempted clearance, which ended in the arms of Ross Glendinning, was a back pass and then failed to spot that, although Shane McCabe took the free kick, the ball didn't actually move before Braniff hammered it into the net from seven yards.

But as even Hamilton had to admit, the Blues refused to give in and, from a left wing free kick by Stephen Lowry, Jimmy Callacher rose tallest to head home the winner. Hamilton's day was complete!

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