Emotional Collicutt left distraught by controversial play-off defeat - The Evesham Observer

Emotional Collicutt left distraught by controversial play-off defeat

Evesham Editorial 27th Apr, 2017 Updated: 27th Apr, 2017   0

EVESHAM United boss Paul Collicutt could barely hold back the tears after watching his side suffer a heart-breaking extra-time defeat in Wednesday’s Southern League Division One South & West play-off semi-final at much-fancied Salisbury.

Despite playing much of the contest with ten men following the controversial first half sending-off of midfielder Ashley Williams, the Robins were the better team in the second half and in the extra period, only to be sunk by Thomas Wright’s 119th-minute penalty.

The late drama does not even tell half the story though. The visitors already felt aggrieved at a penalty awarded to the hosts and saved by the magnificent Kevin Sawyer in the first period of extra-time and the red card shown to Williams.

Adam Mann had kept United’s hopes alive with an 84th-minute equaliser, but it was not to be as the performance of the officials came into question from players and supporters of both sides.

A distraught Collicutt said: “I am heartbroken. My players were absolutely magnificent and we find the decisions given against us very hard to take.

“I am hurting more now than any other result which has ever gone against me in my career. It hurts so badly. The lads gave their all and the support from our fans was brilliant.

“Despite being without six or seven key players, including a couple out for 12 months or so, we gave a performance I am immensely proud of. It speaks volumes for the character we have within the club.

“Salisbury made the better start but we grew into the game and by the end I am positive any neutral leaving the ground would have said we deserved to win.

“There were Salisbury fans coming up to me and saying there were injustices in the decisions and result. We looked fitter in extra time despite playing so long with ten men, but I simply cannot believe some of the decisions given against us.

“Given some of the obstacles we have had to overcome this season, we did incredibly well to even reach the play-offs. Everyone connected with the club worked their socks off for the cause and everyone in our dressing room shed some tears.”

After Sawyer’s early heroics had kept Evesham in contention, the match appeared to have turned decisively in the hosts’ favour when Williams was dismissed for his challenge on Elliot Wheeler, despite appearing to win the ball cleanly. The referee deemed it dangerous, but many disagreed.

Claudio Herbert gave the hosts a 53rd-minute lead when he fired in a low strike after a cross was only half cleared, but the visitors rallied and deservedly levelled late on when Mann showed great composure to score after an excellent through ball.

The Robins came close to an injury-time winner when Lance Smith headed narrowly wide from Garyn Preen’s cross, but extra-time was needed.

Lady luck appeared to be smiling on Salisbury again when they were handed a 98th-minute penalty following Leroy Odeiro’s seemingly fair challenge on Wright which ended with Odeiro, Lorcan Sheehan and Matt Williams all being booked for their protestations.

However, Sawyer dived to his right to make a superb one-handed save to keep out Wright’s spot-kick.

Mann then looped a 103rd-minute effort narrowly over the Salisbury bar, but disaster struck for the Robins just as a penalty shoot-out loomed when a mistake from Carl Brown led to Linden Dovey tripping Taurean Roberts in the box and this time Wright made no mistake as he fired home his 51st goal of the season to shatter Evesham dreams.

Salisbury, managed by Steve Claridge, will host Tiverton Town in the play-off final on Bank Holiday Monday.

Former Birmingham and Leicester striker Claridge had this to say on Wheeler’s injury: “The boy’s caught him with his studs but luckily Elliot’s foot was on the way up as he saw it coming and that’s what saved him from possibly a break or a more serious blunt trauma injury.”

Claridge, who revealed Wheeler went to hospital to have nine stitches to his lower leg injury, added: “We really should have been out of sight by half time but Kevin Sawyer in their goal made some great saves to keep them in it.

“It (the win) was a huge relief to everyone because, to be fair to Evesham, the game could have gone either way in that extra-time, even with them having ten men.”


Paul Fahy – Boys was outstanding tonight, battled hard with ten men and deserved something. Ref has killed us. Thanks for the support.

Liam Harding – Never been so proud of a group of lads. Different class. Absolute heroes.

Adam Mann – Absolutely devastated with the outcome but we gave everything tonight. Amazing support as always.

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