Rovers boss Stephen Bradley slams refereeing in derby defeat
‘I think we need to look at who referees these big games, who takes control of them’
Paul McLoughlin sends off Shamrock Rovers’ Lee Grace during his side’s defeat to Bohemians. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
Stephen Bradley said he is proud of the way his players performed after Shamrock Rovers were reduced to nine men against arch rivals Bohemians on Tuesday night, but made it clear where he feels the blame for the 1-0 defeat lies by questioning whether match referee Paul McLaughlin was up to the job.
McLaughlin sent off two of the home side’s players in the first half - Trevor Clarke for a foul on Danny Grant on the edge of the area and Lee Grace, who had already been booked, for what the Donegalman reckoned was a handball.
The hosts protested that the proximity of Roberto Lopes to the first incident meant the left back should only have been booked, while TV replays suggested Grace’s exasperated claims that Keith Buckley’s shot had struck his face not his forearm were true. Bradley’s conclusion, one that may land him in trouble, was that the wrong man had been put in charge of the game.
“It’s unbelievable,” he said. “Unbelievable decisions. Big, big games, how they can make these decisions, it’s beyond me. Trevor’s not even last man and he’s sent off straight away. Lee Grace, it’s hit him in the head. The referee was so quick to point to the spot he couldn’t change his mind.
“I think we need to look at who referees these big games, who takes control of them. The fourth official tonight (Robert Hennessy) is one of the best in the league, if not the best, and he’s standing on the sideline. Sometimes these games are too big for people.
“It’s not good enough, it’s not acceptable [and] the scary thing is they don’t even give you the respect of speaking to you. The good ones speak to you. The good ones give you that respect as a man, and speak to you. They explain decisions and right or wrong, you have to accept it. They (others) don’t speak to you. . . it’s unbelievable.”
Bradley said he was proud of the way his players managed to stay in the game and create its better chances over the course of the second half. “I’m disappointed, but proud. Really proud of the players, of how they performed, of how they stuck together, the character, the fight. . .really proud of what’s in that dressing room.
“A lot of teams would fold there. They are playing 60 minutes with nine men; a lot of teams would fold but we didn’t. We worked really hard for each other; I think we had three chances in the second-half to get a draw. So I’m immensely proud of each and every one of them. If they produce that in every game, we will be right up there come the end of the season.”
More immediately they have to produce something like it on Friday night when they will be without either Grace or Clarke for the visit to Oriel Park and a game with Dundalk, who will have had an extra day to recover from what was a less draining game.
“We can’t have it both ways,” acknowledged Bradley, “we had the extra day after Derry away so we can’t really complain. And we are capable of going anywhere and winning; Friday will be no different.
“The last thing you want after a game like that and a crowd like that is to go into a game where there is little or nobody watching, and all that comes with that. We know Oriel Park on Friday will be bouncing, and they’ll be at it. That’s exactly what you want.”