Warrenpoint relegated by controversial penalty decision
Danske Bank Premiership: Warrenpoint Town 1 Dungannon Swifts 1
WARRENPOINT TOWN are counting the cost after a horrendous refereeing decision in injury-time of Saturday’s crucial clash with Dungannon Swifts sent them plunging into the Championship.
At Milltown on Saturday in the final round of Danske Bank Premiership matches, the Seasiders were almost home and dry, a Stephen Hughes goal after 77 minutes giving them a 1-0 lead.
Had the match ended that way, the ’Point would have finished third from bottom as relegation rivals Carrick Rangers had netted twice in the last few minutes against Ballinamallard. Warrenpoint would have secured their Premiership status as their win would then have then lifted them above both Rangers and the Mallards in the table.
But they were suddenly consigned to bottom place and bound for the Championship thanks to a hugely controversial penalty decision from Carrickfergus referee Ross Dunlop.
With 90 minutes gone and three minutes of injury-time being played, the Town’s central defender Jordan Dane made an attempt to win a 50-50 ball and got there first. But just as he did, Dungannon’s Cormac Burke charged into him and sent him to the ground.
Indeed, the Swifts’ man raised his hand in an apologetic manner as Dane lay prone. The most likely outcome appeared to be a free-kick to the Warrenpoint defender, but shock surfaced when the official pointed to the spot and awarded a penalty kick to the Swifts.
Although Town goalkeeper Johnny Parr brilliantly saved the initial strike and two follow-up efforts, Swifts substitute Andrew Mitchell forced the ball into the Warrenpoint net to level the match.
That draw meant the Mallards moved off the bottom, while Carrick eased into the third-from-bottom spot. In effect, that decision and the subsequent goal relegated Warrenpoint.
Warrenpoint Town defender Stephen Moan, absolutely gutted as was everyone at Milltown, said: “If it had been our own fault, I would have raised my hand and accepted it. But it was a shocking decision.
“Even the linesman signalled for a free out. The linesman was 50 yards away and he saw it as a free out, while the referee was only 10 yards away and he didn’t. I asked him why he gave it and he said: ‘It was a 50/50 tackle and he [Burke] won the ball'.”
Moan added: “Even Dungannon didn’t appeal. It was a sad day for Warrenpoint, but we’ll bounce back.”
Dungannon goalkeeper Andy Coleman, who as a teenager played for Newry team Midway United under Barry Gray and who was on the bench for the Swifts on Saturday said: “I am gutted for Barry Gray; everyone knows how much time and effort he puts into the club.
“It was never a penalty - it was an awful refereeing decision that sent them down. It was hard to watch.”
Warrenpoint chairman Johnny Baird was rocked by the decision: “What happened was out of our control. But it was such a crucial decision to get wrong. Everybody is devastated, but we’ll bounce back.”