Daventry boss denies pressuring referee

DAVENTRY Town manager Mark Kinsella has hit back at suggestions that the Northamptonshire club ‘hassled’ the referee to get Saturday’s Southern League Division One Central match called off.

St Neots Town chairman Mike Kearns publically criticised the visitors after the game at The Hunts Post Community Stadium was postponed minutes before it was due to kick-off.

Despite the amazing efforts of the club’s staff and fans, referee Chris O’Donnell overturned two previous decisions that the game would go ahead after discussions with officials from both sides.

Kinsella, the former Charlton and Republic of Ireland midfielder and captain, told The Hunts Post: “We were told the pitch was 50-50 before we left and then St Neots’ website said the game was 90 per cent on. But when we got there they still had tin cans alight on the pitch.”

On Friday night, Saints manager Dennis Greene had organised for drums of burning broken up wooden pallets to be placed on the icier spots. Had St Neots won on Saturday, they would have gone top with leaders Slough Town’s match already off.

Staff and fans descended on the ground to help keep the fires burning – but just 20 minutes before kick off the referee was made aware of a ‘rubbed’ area of pitch and, after much deliberation with his fellow officials and those from both camps, he signalled an end to proceedings.

Greene was forthright, saying: “Unfortunately they have the attitude that they don’t want to play the game.”

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And there have even been suggestions from on St Neots’ official website’s forum that the visiting squad was either under-strength – or hungover! Kinsella said: “I was told not to look at the forum. It’s disappointing that people have to bring our professionalism into question. After 20 years as a professional footballer I pride myself on getting my players to do the right things.

“We had one member of our 18-man squad out through injury – Josh O’Grady – and we travelled with the other 17. Other than Josh, we had a full-strength squad.”

After warming up on what was certainly a hard pitch, Daventry officials persuaded the referee Chris O’Donnell that there was ice below the surface and that the pitch was dangerous.

What riled St Neots chairman Kearns was that members of Daventry’s entourage had surrounded the referee while discussions took place – and then rubbed away a small area of the surface to reveal a layer of ice.

“I’m not happy, I don’t blame the referee, I’m very upset with Daventry – from the moment they came here, they took two steps on the pitch and didn’t want to play,” said the chairman. “We felt there was no problem and as I speak to you now, our players are out there training and playing football. If they can do it so can Daventry. But Daventry weren’t up for the game right from the start. They harassed the referee from the moment they got here.”

Disputing claims that his club put pressure on the referee, Daventry secretary Terry O’Neill said: “St Neots spoke to the young referee before we even got there.

“The pitch was rock hard. Our groundsman said it was unplayable.”

However, O’Neill was impressed with the amount of effort that had been made to get the game on. “I’m not taking anything away from the work that went into trying to keep the game on.

“We wanted to play – but the pitch should have been deemed unplayable before we even left Daventry at a quarter past 12.”