Crewe beat Accrington as chaotic FA Cup tie ends without assistant referee | Football


Crewe won 2-0 at Accrington Stanley in an extraordinary three-hour FA Cup first-round tie that ended with just one assistant referee after an injury crisis among the officials.

The first referee, Neil Hair, limped off in the 22nd minute and was replaced in the middle by the fourth official, Alan Clayton – but he picked up an injury and was unable to return for the second half. Crewe took the lead through Charlie Kirk in first-half stoppage time, but the interval lasted over an hour as the two sides discussed how to deal with the situation.

One of the assistant referees, Danny Gratton, eventually took the whistle, but with neither injured official able to run the line, the match resumed with just one assistant. Supporters from both sides volunteered to step in, but the managers agreed to restart with an official short. The second half kicked off at 5.10pm – and a coin-toss decreed that the remaining assistant, Conor Brown, would supervise the Crewe half of the pitch only.

Crewe were awarded a penalty on 67 minutes, after Jerome Opoku’s foul on Tommy Lowery – in the half of the field without an assistant. Chris Porter fired home the spot-kick to double the visitors’ lead.

Ten minutes later, Stanley were reduced to 10 men when Mark Hughes was sent off for bringing down Owen Dale. By that time, many home fans had left, and the game eventually ended more than three hours after it had kicked off.

The Crewe manager, David Artell, said that the game could have been paused to give the fourth official time to warm up. “[Clayton] said at half-time that he was injured. I am not surprised because the fourth official doesn’t have time to warm up properly.”

“I would like to see him given 10 minutes to get his body temperature up and perhaps warm up with some sprints,” he added. “I know it would delay the players for 10 minutes but then you don’t run the risk of the officials getting another injury.”

On the half-time delay, Artell said: “The son of [Accrington assistant] Jimmy Bell offered to do it and I agreed, but then he didn’t want to do it. Then a Crewe fan volunteered to do it and they [Accrington] wouldn’t agree to that.”

“I agreed to everything and there was a call made to the FA and head of referees and they said that the game had to be played with one assistant, so we did. I didn’t want to have to come back. I was thinking of [Crewe] supporters who had spent their hard-earned money.”

Aiden McGeady opened the scoring for Sunderland, but a howler from goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin cost them victory.

Aiden McGeady opened the scoring for Sunderland, but a howler from goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin cost them victory. Photograph: Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Elsewhere, Darlington earned a home replay with Walsall after a late flurry of goals. The National League North side led through Omar Holness, but late goals from Caolan Lavery and Alfie Bates looked to have rescued the League Two strugglers – only for Jarrett Rivers to earn Darlo a draw in the 96th minute.

Sunderland were held by Gillingham at the Stadium of Light, as goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin’s howler cancelled out Aiden McGeady’s opener for the hosts. McLaughlin looked to have held Olly Lee’s free kick comfortably, but spilled the ball through his legs to gift the Gills a replay.

That was one of 12 Saturday first-round ties to end in a draw, with League One promotion-chasers Ipswich held at home by Lincoln, and Southern Premier League Central side Stourbridge drew 2-2 with Eastleigh, who levelled late on through Scott Rendell.

Rotherham had to come from behind at 10-man Maidenhead, Matt Crooks sealing victory with the Millers’ third goal in a nine-minute spell in the second half. Callum McFadzean’s early goal earned League Two Plymouth victory at League One’s bottom side, Bolton Wanderers.

National League South side Maidstone are into the second round after Dan Wishart’s deflected strike earned victory over Torquay, and Ben Turner struck late for Notts County as they won 3-2 at Ebbsfleet.


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