Our last match here saw us take on the league leaders Basingstoke Town in the FA Cup and despite our best efforts we lost the game 2-1. From time to time in football you get periods where you play average at best and win and you play well and draw but on this occasion it was to the extreme.
Depending on what form of media you choose to read, we had between 10 and 18 shots on target and more than 20 shots at goal. We found a keeper in inspired form and despite our best efforts managed to lose the game to a team that had three shots on target in 90 minutes.
Under those circumstances it is very difficult to take and the FA Cup is a competition that we wanted to progress in. I don’t think performance-wise I could have asked any more from the players. The first goal came out of nowhere and was an unstoppable shot and the second came from a second phase of a set piece, both in the final 10 minutes. It is a very bitter pill to swallow but we didn’t convert as many chances as we should have and ultimately when you dominate like we did then that second goal really kills off an opponent and although we thoroughly deserved a second we didn’t get it and that always leaves you vulnerable.
The Hemel Hempstead game was one of two halves and I thought we dominated in the first 45 minutes and again should have been comfortably three goals to the good – but a combination of the woodwork and superb goalkeeping left us with just a single-goal advantage at half time. We felt we should have had a penalty for a blatant pull in the box but it wasn’t given. My only complaints with the first 45 minutes were that once we scored we seemed to stop what was a relentless assault on the Hemel goal and that we hadn’t given ourselves a more comfortable lead.
I was disappointed with our second-half performance and I felt we lacked composure in possession and our decision making became a bit erratic. Despite that we had two great chances to extend our lead before Hemel scored and it took a wonderful deft lob to breach our goal for the first time in the league in 430 minutes, since we conceded in the 94th minute away at Weston-super-Mare. We remain unbeaten in five league games scoring nine and conceding just once and it is a run we want to build upon to close the gap on the teams above us.
I am constantly in communication with referees and on Saturday the referee apologised for missing a blatant penalty for a pull on Billy Bricknell. I have no issues with officials who genuinely don’t see a foul but I have a real issue with assistants at the moment. It is almost like they’ve been told not to make controversial decisions. They constantly wait for the referee to point in which direction he feels a throw-in is and never overrule, even if the ref’s decision is blatantly wrong.
I saw one of the worst officiating displays on Monday night at our FA Youth Cup match and possibly the most blatant mistake a referee will ever make. To rub salt into the wound, Dartford duly scored from the corner that should never have been given. The standards have to improve and referees must take more responsibility. On the occasions referees do make a mistake, it doesn’t make it any easier to take when they own up but it’s better than being spoken to like a schoolboy who shouldn’t have an opinion!