Sport

Hereford 1 Accrington Stanley 0

IF there had been any justice Paul Cook's late 25-yard blast would have tucked into the top corner of the net and given Stanley a draw.
THE TACKLE... Steve Halford and Steve Guinan lie grounded after the pair rushed in together.

IF there had been any justice Paul Cook's late 25-yard blast would have tucked into the top corner of the net and given Stanley a draw.

Instead the substitute's effort clipped the top of the crossbar and the Reds were left fuming at the loss which virtually said goodbye to their play-off hopes.

Defender Steve Halford's fourth sending off of the season and the resulting penalty left the players, manager and 109 fans from Accrington outraged.

Boss John Coleman had to try and remain tight-lipped for fear of getting himself into trouble with the Football Association but he couldn't hide his fury.

"I can't say too much because I will have an FA charge up against me but everyone in the ground knows it is not a penalty."

Halford slid in with Steve Guinan in the 73rd minute as he tried to stop him getting on the end of a Matthew Rose cross.

There was no loud appeal and didn't appear anything other than a corner but referee Jarnel Singh pointed to the spot and then showed the luckless Halford a straight red.

"Hacker's been strong, he has been getting fouled himself and he has gone across his man and won the ball - it is a corner," continued Coleman, "We haven't been beaten by Hereford but by a dubious decision."

"Now Steve will get a five or six match ban as it is his fourth sending off for being a good defender and putting in a good tackle - if that's the case then the whole legislation of football stinks to the core."

"If it was a sending off and penalty then the rules of football must have changed."

"If it has been the first time we'd have had to live to it - but it is not the first time we have lost points to a dubious decision."

"We have been asked to smarten up our act by the FA and I never criticised the referees when I went before the FA - but now it is time for them to get their act in order."

Stanley were the better side in the first half against the second placed side and only Bulls keeper Matt Baker kept the score down.

He punched away a Paul Mullin header from a Rory Prendergast corner on 28 minutes and, on 40 minutes, Ged Brannan looped the ball in but Rory Prendergast's goalbound header was finger-tipped over by Baker.

Hereford's Steve Guinan and David Brown - with 33 goals between them this season - did look strong going forward but they never tested Jon Kennedy in the first half.

It was a different story after the break as Graham Turner looked to prevent Accrington doing the double over his promotion-chasing side. Both Brown and Giunan had chances early on but failed to find the target while Kennedy was then called into action to block a Brown effort.

And hitman Brown should have broken the deadlock after getting round Darran Kempson in the 68th minute but, with just Kennedy to beat in the six yard box, he chose to cross instead of shoot and no one was up supporting him.

Then came the penalty and Stanley's 12th dismissal of the season.

And it then could have been worse for the Reds when sub Daniel Carey-Bertram broke through but Kennedy did well to keep his strike out. Andy Procter then headed over a Lutel James cross before James got his head to a Dean Calcutt ball but flicked the ball wide.

And, in a frantic finale, Kennedy pushed out another Guinan effort and the ball fell to the incoming Carey-Bertram who had the goal at his mercy but Peter Cavanagh managed to get there and clear his effort off the line.

Then came Cook's blistering strike which should have sealed a deserved point for the Reds.

"It was a great strike by Paul - in fact he probably hit it too well," said Coleman. "We didn't get what we deserved."

"I thought we were the better team, we had chances in the first half but just didn't get the rub of the green - as has happened on too many occasions this season."