‘REF SHOULDN’T HAVE BEEN HERE’

The Football League Paper - - LEAGUE ONE - By Chris Phillips

SOUTHEND United man­ager Phil Brown hit out at referee Ben Toner fol­low­ing his side’s draw at ta­ble-top­ping Gillingham – as his op­po­site num­ber also claimed the of­fi­cial wasn’t ready.

A calami­tous late er­ror from Shrimpers goal­keeper Daniel Bent­ley al­lowed Doug Loft to net a last gasp-equaliser for the Gills.

But it was Mr Toner who Brown blamed for his side drop­ping two points.

“I won’t hold Dan Bent­ley re­spon­si­ble, I’ll hold the referee re­spon­si­ble for let­ting the home team off the hook,” fumed Brown.

“He just got so many big de­ci­sions wrong. There was a penalty in the first half he didn’t give and then he booked some­one for less of a chal­lenge more or less right af­ter.

“We made an er­ror for the goal but the ball would have still been up the other end but for the strange de­ci­sion he made against Myles We­ston. It’s tough but we won’t have to brush our­selves down as much as we did af­ter the Chester­field game.

“There’s an el­e­ment of shock in the chang­ing room be­cause Dan isn’t one to make those kind of mis­takes.

“But we won’t be blam­ing him be­cause he has saved us on many oc­ca­sions and prob­a­bly sin­gle­hand­edly got us in the play-offs last year.”

Southend had seemed set for vic­tory be­fore the late drama and opened the scor­ing af­ter just 11 min­utes with Stephen McLaugh­lin on tar­get for the first time this sea­son.

The Ir­ish­man latched onto Joe Pig­ott’s header for­ward and im­pres­sively lobbed the ball over the ad­vanc­ing Stu­art Nel­son for his first goal of the sea­son.

Southend had strong shouts for a penalty waved away when David Mooney went to ground while un­der pres­sure from John Egan. But Gills posed more of a threat in the sec­ond half with Bradley Dack twice go­ing close to equal­is­ing.

In a bid to stay in front, Southend boss Brown was forced to sub­sti­tute tough­tack­ling mid­fielder Gary Dee­gan af­ter he came close to be­ing shown a sec­ond yel­low card mid­way through the sec­ond half.

How­ever, Gillingham con­tin­ued to push, with Harry Len­non be­ing de­nied by Bent­ley be­fore he some­how al­lowed Loft’s over­hit cross to sail over his head to keep Gillingham’s home record in­tact.

Gills boss Ed­in­burgh ad­mit­ted: “It was one of those fluky goals that hap­pens.

“Did we de­serve it? That’s de­bat­able but we did keep knock­ing at the door and we again showed our never-say­die at­ti­tude.”

The draw kept Gillingham top but Ed­in­burgh was also less than im­pressed by the referee.

“It was the wrong call to make him referee,” said Ed­in­burgh. “The game was too big for him at this stage. Are they fast-track­ing ref­er­ees too quickly? I think so. “Phil prob­a­bly thinks he should have had a penalty and there’s no doubt on an­other day Dee­gan would have been sent off.”

PIC­TURES: TGSPHOTO

DACK AT­TACK: Bradley Dack’s free-kick for Gillingham just goes wide of the Pre­ston goal STAR MAN JOE PIG­OTT Southend

DOUG UP: Gillingham play­ers con­grat­u­late Doug Loft af­ter his equaliser

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