Linfield manager David Healy was left pointing to a ‘shocking decision’ by referee Raymond Hetherington as Paul Heatley and David Cushley grabbed goals to send Crusaders marching into the Bet McLean League Cup semi-finals.
Hetherington initially awarded a red card to Crusaders’ David Cushley following a challenge with Mark Stafford - but, following consultation, changed his mind and instead sent off the Linfield player.
Linfield boss David Healy was horrified with the decision in his team’s 2-0 defeat.
“It was a shocking, shocking decision,” rapped Healy. “The referee, who was five yards away, actually got it right. But he was influenced by other officials who were 30 yards away.
“His initial reaction was right... his decision to change it was wrong. I have to ask the question, why do the officials on the sidelines have to get involved?
“Not only have they (the officials) hung us out tonight, they have also hung the referee out!
“As a manager of this club I’m hurting because I’m losing games.
“I’m disappointed with the run of form we are on, but we are not getting too much help from outside.
“We are not doing enough on the pitch to put the ball in the net to win games, but we are not being helped in any way with some of the officials.”
In contrast, Crusaders manager Stephen Baxter was thrilled with his team’s performance.
“It was a big, big game with a lot at stake,” he said. “It was a big game of football between two committed teams.
“I felt we produced one or two moments of magic and got the result we deserved.
“That’s what it is all about. You’ve got to keep your head down and work hard and hope the big chances fall your way.
“I think we scored a couple of good goals and hit the crossbar with another great effort. We’ll be pleased with that.”
Reflecting on the red card drama, Baxter said he felt that Cushley had been fouled by Stafford.
“On the sending off, from my eyeline, it looked as though Cushley had been fouled,” he said. “I’ll have to see it back on television.
“That’s why our league officials pay a lot of money to have officials referee at the standard they do.
“They have to make the calls as they see it.
“I thought we had the game won when we scored our second goal. It was a bit bizarre.
“Roy (Carroll) went up to see if he could salvage the situation for them. I would have done the same thing myself.”