04:00PM, Thursday 14 October 2021
Joint manager Jon Underwood was forced to choose his words carefully as he reflected on a frustrating afternoon for Slough Town against Ebbsfleet United on Saturday.
The Rebels lost the game 3-1, a result which extended their winless run to seven matches in all competitions, but after a series of controversial decisions went against the home side, Underwood was forced to hold his tongue.
“I'll choose my words carefully here, but it felt that we were playing the best team in the league and unfortunately the referee at times today,” he said. “We got absolutely nothing.
“I felt that both penalty incidents were very similar, and I just think I could have accepted the first one if he gives the second one.
“It was at a crucial time in the game at 1-1 and then, literally within five minutes of that decision, their player has a shot, it ricochets off our player to their lad (Lee Martin) and he finishes it really well. That five-minute spell sort of summed up our day. A decision didn’t go our way and then they get a bit of a lucky break and he's finished it very well.”
That spell, midway through the second half, kind of sums up how things have been going for Slough this season. They've been competitive in most of their matches but haven't been able to turn positive spells into points and Saturday's defeat was their fourth in the league this season.
They got a big stroke of fortune for their opening goal, which Ben Harris turned home after a dreadful blunder by Fleet keeper Josh Gould.
But the Rebels' bosses frustration with the match officials came down to two penalty incidents, one of which was given to Fleet five minutes before half-time, and one which wasn't awarded to Slough five minutes before Ebbsfleet took a 2-1 lead. The first incident certainly looked harsh on the Rebels, with Lee Martin going down very easily in the box after a coming together with Mark Nisbet. Rakish Bingham blasted the visitors level from the spot.
Underwood and Baker were then left incensed when the referee Joel Mannix failed to point to the spot following a similar incident on Harris midway through the second half. To further inflame the situation Lee Martin netted Ebbsfleet's second after benefitting from a lucky deflection off a Slough player five minutes later.
The Rebels tried to battle back but weren't quite able to pick the right pass or open up the Fleet defence, and Joe Martin scored a third for the visitors late on. Ebbsfleet’s victory was just about deserved but Underwood said afterwards there was no shame in losing to a side of such quality.
“They came here last season and beat us 2-0 and we didn’t lay a glove on them,” he said. “They just dominated the ball. We were a bit braver today, we stopped them playing. The boys carried out our game plan and instruction to the letter. For a side as good as they are I thought we limited them to very little until the latter stages of the game. We’re not supposed to compete with Ebbsfleet, but I thought we did do that for a big chunk of the game, and we can go away feeling hard done.
“I don't want to be disrespectful to our players, but a few of their players are at a higher level than our boys.
“It’s nothing to be ashamed of that Ebbsfleet are a better side than us.
“On another day we could have got something out of it. Big decisions change the game. If we’d gone 2-1 up on 66 minutes, we wouldn’t have had to go chasing the game and we could have frustrated them.
“We’re trying to stay positive; we’ve matched one of the best two teams in the league for 65 minutes. It’s been too long since we’ve won one, but we have to take the positives from that.”
The Rebels will now look to bounce back at Billericay Town on Saturday.
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