A nine-man Newhaven side came from behind in the last eight minutes to beat a 10-man Hailsham in a game where a host of other players were booked.
If you think that introduction describes an event-filled Saturday afternoon at Fort Road, you wouldn’t be wrong.
The trouble is, it was a game that warranted at the very most three yellow cards – and not three sendings off.
Unfortunately though, the game was overshadowed by referee Craig Cox, the man who dismissed the three players.
Although no straight reds were shown (each player was sent off for picking up two yellow cards) most of the cautions seemied – from the sidelines at least – rather, well, soft.
It was an occasion where both sides became increasingly exasperated by the number of cautions being collected by the man in the middle – regardless of whether that booking was for one of their players or an opponent.
A clear shirt-pull in the Newhaven penalty area was also missed, while – at the other end – a debatable foul that appeared to be committed inside the Hailsham box was awarded – just outside the area.
As incredulity levels soared in both the dugouts and the impressive stand at Fort Road, it became common knowledge that the referee, Mr Cox, was being assessed that day – and that he had known before the first whistle his performance would be put under the microscope.
As both managers spoke in remarkably sympathetic tones about the officiating afterwards, one sensible voice on Twitter questioned the wisdom of putting even extra pressure on referees who face an unenviable job as it is.
Kieran Ridley (@kieranridley5) said: “I never get why refs are told their being assessed. Changes the way they ref.”
The game started reasonably normally, with Hailsham taking a second minute lead when Oli Davis directed his low free kick into the far corner of the Newhaven net.
Newhaven equalised 10 minutes late through Tyler Goatcher, before the first sending off came when Harry Mills received a second yellow card – incredulously for shouting “the ball was out!” in seemingly too loud a voice for the referee’s liking. The comment was neither foul or abusive nor could reasonably be deemed to constitute dissent. But off he went.
Despite the man disadvantage, Hailsham defended manfully and Newhaven were unable to break through for a second goal.
Then, in the second half, Joe Dryer became Newhaven’s first player to be sent off, this followed swiftly by Hailsham retaking the lead through another Davis goal.
And the game truly looked up for the hosts when their captain, Terry Gacias, was the third player to be sent off in the match when he picked up two yellow cards inside a minute.
But a Newhaven side that couldn’t break through a 10-man Hailsham team when with the full complement of players, suddenly found their collective shooting boots when reduced to nine men. Paul Harrison’s men dramatically scored twice in the last eight minutes – first through Adam Kneller and then through Lee Robinson – to seal a dramatic win on a crazy day.
See the video above for highlights of the game.