ANDY RITCHIE reckons the penalty which condemned Town to defeat at Gillingham should never have been given and that the man who put it away shouldn’t have been on the pitch.
Adam Miller, whose red card during Gillingham’s 3-1 win over Town at the Galpharm last month was later rescinded by the Football Association, netted from the spot in the 87th minute.
But Town’s manager said: “We’re very disappointed with the refereeing.”
Essex whistler Steven Cook, just 22 when he made the Football League list last close-season, penalised Nathan Clarke after Town old boy Delroy Facey tumbled just inside the area.
Ritchie added: “I thought the decision was very harsh and that Adam Miller shouldn’t have been on the pitch to take the kick.”
Former Stevenage player Miller was cautioned for a late tackle on Clarke in the 72nd minute, but Ritchie was upset with an earlier challenge on his man.
“Nathan went up for a header and ended up with stud marks down his chest,” explained Ritchie.
“I thought the referee gave Gillingham every decision in the second half.”
Cook was loudly jeered by Town’s 200 travelling fans in a 5,022 Priestfield crowd and waited until stewards formed a human barrier before leaving the pitch.
Ritchie, whose side slipped a place to 14th after a second defeat in three League I games, continued: “I can’t give the lads any stick over the effort they put in and I certainly think we deserved a draw.
“We defended well throughout and put our bodies on the line but the penalty decision cost us.
“It was a battling game between two sides who both wanted the points badly, and I thought a draw would have been a fair outcome.
“Gillingham are fighting for survival and we wanted the win to push up the table, and while it wasn’t a game for the purists, we’ve ended up talking about the officials instead of the match.”
Ritchie, who was today running fitness checks on Rob Page and skipper Jon Worthington, who both took knocks, said: “My only complaint with our performance was that we didn’t take our chances.
“We had three decent ones in the first half alone, and had we put two of them away, it could well have been game over by half-time.”
Gillingham boss Mark Stimson, whose side hadn’t won since defeating Town eight games earlier, said: “The move that led to the penalty was decent.
“Delroy was in the right area and the centre-back has come straight through him.”