Torquay United 4 Harrogate Town 2: Two-goal Jon Stead flabbergasted by red card decision
Jon Stead was the victim of another controversial refereeing decision as Harrogate Town lost 4-2 at Torquay United in a game where they twice took the lead.
The veteran striker had a winning 'goal' harshly ruled out at AFC Fylde on Bank Holiday Monday before Saturday saw him shown a second yellow card for handball in Devon, despite being struck on the shoulder from point-blank range.
Prior to that, Stead had netted his first two goals in Harrogate colours, ending Town's recent penalty curse with a successful 33rd-minute spot-kick conversion to send Simon Weaver's men into the interval with their noses in front.
Torquay levelled matters early in the second period, though Stead slid in at the back post shortly afterwards to covert George Smith's left-wing cross and put his team 2-1 up.
His dismissal on 63 minutes did however prove to be a turning point and the 10 men failed to defend their advantage, leaving Stead to reflect on another "costly" decision by a National League referee.
"He said it was for deliberate handball. I'm at the halfway line, the ball's hit my shoulder. I'm two yards away from the lad who has mis-controlled it. It's just hard to put it into words really," Stead reflected.
"In the first half, there was a clear, deliberate handball which he gave a free-kick for and said 'deliberate handball' and didn't book their player.
"If you thought the one at Fylde was bad, today takes it to a new level. It has cost us.
"It's difficult to take when we've played some decent stuff for large spells for the result to be taken because of a refereeing decision. It is tough to take."
As well as being disappointed by his decision to penalise him in the first instance, Stead revealed he was also surprised by referee Aaron Jackson's apparent desperation to show him a second yellow card.
"There was no real appeal from anybody in the stadium or any of their players, but before he [the referee] could even get to me, his hand was in his pocket," the former Sheffield United hitman added.
"He just kept saying 'deliberate handball'. Before I could even speak to him he was saying 'deliberate handball, deliberate handball, go away, get off the pitch'.
"As soon as it happened his mind was made up."
The men from Wetherby Road were in front at the time Stead received his marching orders, and although he feels Mr Jackson's decision to produce a red card was a pivotal moment, the ex-Premier League striker concedes that Town didn't do enough during the final third of the match.
"We'll look at things and break things down and say to ourselves that after going down to 10 men we were still winning the game 2-1, so how can we be better in those circumstances for next time," he said.
"There are still things that we can work on. We take the disappointment, but we can take a lot of positives from the game, too."
The defeat was Town's fifth in 10 National League outings this terms and leaves them 17th in the table, three points above the relegation zone and five shy of the play-off positions.