Craig Hignett labelled the Checkatrade Trophy and the refereeing a “shambles” after Hartlepool United fell to defeat in their competition opener at Notts County.
The Pools boss was seething after seeing Toto Nsiala sent off for the second game in a row, in the 2-1 loss last night.
There was nothing wrong with the Johnstone’s Paints Trophy as it was.
Unlike Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Newport County when the centre-half was dismissed for a rash handball offence, he looked completely blameless in stoppage time at Meadow Lane.
He saw red moments after referee Darren England ordered off Notts County sub Wes Atkinson after a melee, involving the majority of the sides, finally died down.
It appeared a case of mistaken identity with Nsiala seemingly doing nothing wrong.
Hignett was not a fan of the competition anyway following the decision to allow Premier League Academy teams in and complained bitterly before the game about rules forcing managers to field six players who started the previous match.
But the Pools chief was most critical of the match officials, claiming the game turned ugly after three late incidents.
Firstly, defender Jordan Richards was cleaned out by a hard challenge from County sub Rob Milsom as Pools chased an equaliser.
It went unpunished, even though Mr England and one of his assistants had clear views of the sliding tackle.
At the other end, Notts striker Genaro Snijders went down clutching his face after brushing past Nsiala, which also angered Hignett.
And when Lewis Hawkins was kicked and reacted, it led to a spot of handbags in front of the main stand, which resulted in the double sending off.
“The competition has turned into a shambles,” said Hignett.
“There was nothing wrong with the Johnstone’s Paints Trophy as it was.
“Performance-wise I was pleased with how we played, we controlled the ball in the second half, knocked it around nicely, and I was disappointed we got beaten.
“We could have lost Jordan Richards after a bad challenge the referee deemed fair.
“It was a leg-breaking tackle and the officials haven’t even seen it and don’t know why we were going mad.
“After that one of their players [Snijders] went down when Toto has not touched him, he should have had an Oscar for that performance.
“Then Lewis Hawkins gets stamped on.
“It ended as a shambles and how the officials can mistake Toto for anyone else is beyond me.
“It all stemmed from the referee giving nothing for a leg-breaking tackle.
“He failed to control that so the match ended as a shambles.
“If it [disciplinary points] are not going to count towards league games then you are going to get things like that.”
There were positives for Hignett who rested a number of players, Padraig Amond, Nicky Featherstone, Nathan Thomas and Michael Woods.
Rhys Oates, one of the players to benefit from the changes, came in for his first start of the season and drew Pools level on 29 minutes after good work by Lewis Alessandra.
But when Hawkins fouled Carl Dickinson in the away area 10 minutes before half-time, Graham Burke beat Adam Bartlett from the penalty spot for the winner.
Despite seeing plenty of possession in the second half, Pools could not trouble keeper Scott Loach.
“We scored a really well-worked goal,” said Hignett.
“Lewie has done really well and Rhys has finished it well.
“I’m pleased for Rhys, he has trained well and he has deserved his chance.
“I thought we all played well, especially in the second half, the only disappointment was we just lacked that little bit of quality in the final third.”