‘REF SHOULDN’T HAVE BEEN HERE’
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.”
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