Swindon Town boss Ben Garner admits Harrogate Town 'made it difficult' for his players, but criticises referee Alan Young for not punishing the Sulphurites

Ben Garner admitted Harrogate Town's approach to Saturday's League Two fixture between the sides "made it difficult" for his Swindon Town players, but felt the Robins were on the verge of winning the game when the final whistle sounded.

By Rhys Howell
Monday, 29th November 2021, 10:32 am
Swindon Town manager Ben Garner. Picture: Getty Images
Swindon Town manager Ben Garner. Picture: Getty Images

Simon Weaver's Sulphurites were undoubtedly the better side during the first period, preventing their hosts from dominating possession in the manner that they usually do and taking a deserved 24th-minute lead when Jack Diamond ran on to Mark Oxley's long clearance and nutmegged Jojo Wollacott.

The second half was a much more even affair, with Swindon pushing hard to get themselves back into the contest without ever really managing to trouble visiting goalkeeper Oxley.

That was until Jayden Mitchell-Lawson went to ground in the Town box as he looked to run away from Lewis Page, prompting referee Alan Young to point to the spot and affording Jack Payne the opportunity to net a late equaliser from 12 yards.

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Referee Alan Young books Harrogate Town defender Lewis Page. Picture: Matt Kirkham

With parity restored, both sides threatened to grab a decisive goal at the death, though Garner believes that it was the Robins who looked the more likely.

“It was a difficult game – the conditions made it tough, and the way they [Harrogate] played made it difficult," Garner reflected.

“They came here to stop us playing, and they were aggressive all over the pitch and they did what they do well.

"To concede the goal that we did after working on it and outlining what they do with those direct balls and runners off, it's a very, very disappointing goal to concede.

"I thought we were better second half than first, the way they played, almost man-on-man all over the pitch first half, it is hard to maintain that.

"At the end we are pushing, we are pushing and if it had gone on another couple of minutes we might have got that winner because we looked like scoring every time we attacked. We're disappointed not to get one at the end to make it a win."

Town chief Weaver was adamant that Mr Young should not have awarded the Robins the 83rd-minute spot-kick that saw them draw level, describing the decision as "really, really harsh."

Garner, however, insisted that the referee got that particular call right, but said the home team should have had two more penalties over the course of the afternoon.

"We got a penalty, but we should have had three," he added.

“I’ve seen all of them back. It’s a blatant penalty on Kaine [Kessler-Hayden] in the first half, it’s a penalty on Jayden, and then it’s a penalty on Ellis [Iandolo] at the end.

“Ellis goes past him, the lad makes contact, and it's a penalty.

“I don’t want to talk about officials – I’ve done that enough already this season – but people have got to look at that, assess it, and please tell me why we’re not getting those decisions.”

Garner was also critical of Town's physical approach to stopping his team playing and for Mr Young for not dishing out more cards to the visitors.

He continued: "The way they [Harrogate] played, there was a lot let go, there's a lot of pushes and niggles.

"Kaine's got no legs left, the amount of fouls on him today. One player has fouled him five or six times, you cant make five or six fouls in a game and not get booked, and he has.

So again, that needs to be looked at and addressed otherwise you can just repeatedly foul the same player and stop him from playing.

"He's just bruised all over his legs, he's got one on his knee, a couple on his shin. He just took a lot of damage today and it wasn't clamped down on."

Saturday's result sees Harrogate drop one place in the League Two standings to seventh, while Swindon slip to fourth.