The first ever meeting between Louth Town Reserves and Gainsborough Town the night before Halloween will be remembered for a moment of controversy.
The referee awarded Town a penalty kick for a professional foul on Mark Fairburn, but failed to send off the offender.
Apparently the referee didn’t know witch player was witch. To be Frankenstein, it was obvious who the culprit was and he should have been dismissed. At least some justice was done as the penalty resulted in a ghoul – scored by Sam Halloween.
Harry McHamilton, Karl Shackleton and Mike Armstrong all made their debuts. Town had players missing so others needed to be called upon.
Gainsborough began brightly and took the lead with just 4 minutes played when a low drive found the bottom right corner. Town hoped to equalize sooner rather than later and nearly did through Rocky Rawlings and Dave Pawson who both came close.
The visitors were denied a second goal by the flag and a fabulous double save by Harry McHamilton. A diving header was disallowed for offside before McHamilton first saved a one-on-one and then did brilliantly to block the rebound by another player.
Midway through the first half came that controversial moment. Fairburn had a glaring opportunity once he raced into the box and was cynically chopped down. The referee pointed to the penalty spot with no hesitation and a straight red card was inevitable.
Bizarrely, not even a yellow card was shown and everybody including the defender himself was astonished. At the time this was unclear why, but the referee later admitted it was because he didn’t know who was guilty. The penalty was just about converted by Sam Hallett despite the goalkeeper getting his foot to the ball.
It looked like the score would remain 1-1 at the interval. However, Gainsborough restored their lead in the 5th minute of stoppage time. A free kick from the left was met by a glancing header at the near post and nestled in the net. The half time whistle was blown almost as soon as Town had restarted.
The second half was littered with yellow cards for both sides and didn’t live up to the first. Apart from a near miss by Gainsborough there was little to speak of until the next goal went in.
Late on another effort was ruled out for offside. A direct free kick hit the wall and was fired in by a player who had run too early. Moments later Gainsborough had the ball in the net again and that time it did count. Their left winger controlled a long pass and cut inside to blast into the bottom left corner.
Gainsborough defended well in the last 10 minutes and held on for the win. Although Town were on the wrong end of a 3-1 defeat, their performance wasn’t bad and if the big decision had been dealt with correctly they may have drawn or even won. Sadly, it wasn’t to be.
Town are pleased to have now got the top four Lincs league sides over with in just 18 days. On Saturday October 13 Town were up against league leaders, Skegness United. Three days later Town faced Cleethorpes Town reserves who are currently in second place. Soon afterwards Town played the teams in third and fourth place. They were Nettleham on Saturday and Gainsborough on Tuesday.
Jack Burton was satisfied with the performance by his players: “This was a great game for the neutrals. Gainsborough were the most physical team we have played this season and have some of the best footballers in the league. I felt my lads got up for the challenge and matched Gainsborough for much of the game, but some decisions didn’t go our way. Take nothing away from Gainsborough though - they scored an early goal and made it difficult for us to settle. If we put in committed performances like that every week we would be much higher up the table.”
The next fixture Town have is versus a team on a similar footing, Horncastle Town. Park Avenue is the venue and kick off will be at 2 pm. With no obvious favourite this one promises to be much closer.
Match stats: McHamilton; Perkins (T.Cope 71), Shackleton (G.Pawson 85), Burton, Parnell; S.McSpadden, D.Pawson, Hallett (c); Rawlings (Buck 90), Fairburn, Armstrong.
Booked: Parnell 48, Armstrong 88.
Sent off: N/A
Scorer(s): Hallett (pen) 24.
Man of the match: Shackleton.