Newport boss Coughlan criticises ref after FA Cup frustration against Eastleigh
Exiles boss Graham Coughlan criticised referee Ed Duckworth for the penalty decision which saw 10-man Eastleigh earn an FA Cup replay from the 1-1 draw at Rodney Parade.
The visitors lost centre-back George Langston for an elbow on County midfielder Harry Charsley seven minutes before the break, leaving the National League side with an uphill task.
County looked to be on their way to the fourth round once defender James Clarke turned in Shane McLoughlin’s corner in the 56th minute.
But Clarke brought down 25-goal Spitfires striker Paul McCallum in the box and Chris Maguire, who had earlier hit the post, levelled with a confident penalty into the top corner eight minutes from time.
“It was a shocker,” said Coughlan of the spot kick. “It was based around the first-half decision to send their centre-half off.
“As a former centre-half I have taken a few and chucked a few, so know when one is chucked deliberately.”
The replay at the Silverlake Stadium is an unwanted extra fixture for County, who should have been out of sight before the equaliser.
“I have mixed emotions,” added Coughlan. “We played really well, were the dominant team and moved the ball well to get into good positions.
“Before the sending off we were good and created chances that we just didn’t finish.
“Unfortunately, we are coming away from a game yet again talking about a ridiculous decision.
“We should have seen the game through, but the game was always likely to swing on a naive refereeing decision.
“We shoot ourselves in the foot, that’s evident, and I’ve got to take ownership for that.
“Overall, we need to realise how well we played, it was just that finishing touch and little bit of quality in the final third.”
Eastleigh manager Richard Hill claimed his side used the sense of injustice after Langston’s red card to inspire them to fight back for the draw.
“We had to give it a go,” said Hill, whose side dumped out League One Reading in the second round. “There was no point just keeping the score down in the last 20 minutes.
“We made positive substitutions and we’ve got players who are pretty special in certain areas of the pitch, and anything can happen.”
Hill was unhappy with the decision to show Langston a straight red and felt the home crowd influenced the officials.
“I’ve got to be careful – the FA police will be watching – it was a foul to us,” he added. “Will Evans was fouling our boys throughout the game, but sometimes the officials aren’t good enough to see that because they haven’t played the game. The crowd affected the linesman for the whole game as well.
“We felt a little bit aggrieved, and it motivated us. We sailed by the seat of our pants, but we were resolute. And when it went 1-1, I was telling the lads to go and win it.”
Maguire was the hero for the 1,000 travelling fans and Hill paid tribute to the experienced former Aberdeen, Sheffield Wednesday and Sunderland man for his composure.
“There’s no better in the National League, or in League Two, than Chris Maguire to be in that position,” he insisted.
“He said to me as he was coming off the pitch ‘never in doubt’ and you have to believe him.
“We’ve only done half a job and we have to be mindful of that. We can’t think it’s a foregone conclusion, but we’ve got another chance.”
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