Chris Plummer launched a stinging attack on referee Michael Blackledge after Corby Town were forced to hold on for a 2-2 draw with Bishop’s Stortford.
The Steelmen looked to be heading for a crucial victory at the bottom of the Blue Square Bet North as a long-awaited Avelino Vieira goal and Ryan Semple’s close-range finish gave them a deserved 2-0 lead at half-time at Steel Park.
But the night took a turn for the worse when Vieira was sent off for a high challenge on visiting defender Adam Bailey-Dennis, just seconds after a clash between the pair when Bailey-Dennis had also been guilty of a high tackle.
But nothing was given and Vieira’s challenge was clear retaliation. Mr Blackledge showed him a deserved red card and the visitors earned a point with two quick goals before piling on the pressure late on.
Corby held on to move seven points clear of the drop-zone ahead of Saturday’s crucial clash at third-from-bottom Colwyn Bay.
But boss Plummer was fuming with Mr Blackledge. He had few complaints over Vieira’s red card but was upset at the events that led to it.
“We had the referee earlier in the season and he wasn’t very good and for the whole game this time it seemed he gave a free-kick for every nudge from us and gave nothing when they did it,” a furious Plummer said.
“We can’t argue with the sending-off, I think it was a red card. But it was the incident about 10 seconds before it that provoked the action.
“It looked to me like Avelino was clotheslined and I could hear the noise from the other side of the pitch. I think the referee caused the problem.
“We have to be more professional and Avelino can’t allow the red mist to descend but sometimes it is very difficult.
“If the referee had given a free-kick it would have defused the situation but he gave nothing. And he did that quite a lot. He has also booked a couple of our players and I know they didn’t swear at him. They were just asking the question.
“I shouted to him that he caused the sending-off because of his prior decision and he came over and said if I said anymore then I would be sent off.
“Hey ho. You can’t affect what the referee does. I am just pleased our lads stuck in there and managed to hold on for a point when we were under pressure with 10 men.
“I was pleased with the way we played in the first half, I thought we were excellent and the scoreline at half-time didn’t flatter us at all.
“The turning points of the game were Josh (Moreman) getting injured and Avelino getting sent off. They have got two quick goals and put us under pressure after that.
“But we have got through to the end with 10 men and I give the lads credit for that. We wanted the three points but we could have lost it all. I am pleased with a point under the circumstances.”
There was also bad news on the injury front for the hosts as Plummer confirmed top scorer Josh Moreman could be facing a spell on the sidelines.
Moreman went off with a shin injury shortly before Vieira’s sending-off and left Steel Park on crutches.
Plummer added: “It looks quite serious to be honest and that is a big blow because I thought Josh looked back to how he was before Christmas. He looked very sharp.
“We will have to get it assessed. He is on crutches so it’s not good. We will see how it goes and hopefully there will be a miraculous recovery before Saturday.
The Steelmen’s preparations were not helped by the late withdrawal of defender Paul Malone who went down with illness just hours before the game while Jordan Ivey-Ward missed out for the same reason. Greg Kaziboni had already confirmed he was unavailable due to family commitments.