Blue Square South Final at Stevenage Borough FC: EASTBOURNE BOROUGH 2 HAMPTON & RICHMOND BOROUGH 0
A furious Alan Devonshire blasted ref Ron Ganfield for robbing his side of a dream place in the Conference - and then laughing about it!
The Hampton & Richmond Borough boss reckons the official missed a nailed-on penalty during last Thursday's Blue Square South Play-Off Final with Eastbourne Borough.
The two sides were deadlocked at 0-0 midway through the second half when Lawrence Yaku was denied a clear scoring chance when Eastbourne's Darren Baker elbowed the ball away in the box.
Dev's men went on to lose 2-0 in a game they had dominated, and Dev was in no mood to be told his side were unlucky.
He said: "I saw it was a penalty from 50 yards away, and the TV replays afterwards showed it was blatant.
"Even the fourth official saw it, but the ref missed it, and it annoys me that he was laughing and smirking afterwards.
"Refs are human and make mistakes, but they should own up to them. It would have been easier to take if he did.
"I let him know what I thought after and he'll put it in his report, but I don't give a monkey's - that decision killed us. I feel a real injustice."
Hampton dominated the game and should have won - an Eastbourne player was even heard saying afterwards that it had been a smash-and-grab on his side's behalf.
But despite his team exceeding all expectations to reach the play-off final a year after being promoted from the Ryman Premier, Dev wasn't interested in taking the plaudits.
He said: "I don't want pats on the back and I'm already sick of being told we were unlucky.
"It would have been easier to take if they had been the better side and I could say they beat us fair and square, but instead I'm fuming about it.
"Okay, so we didn't expect to make it this far, but I believe sometimes you should get what we deserve - and we deserved to win and go up.
"But it was just one of those days when the ball wouldn't fall for us in the box, or would bounce awkwardly.
"And when Matty made a great save for their first goal the ball could have bounced anywhere off the bar, but it fell straight to their lad following in."
By that stage, Eastbourne had created just a handful of chances, with Andy Atkin twice going close and Lovett saving superbly from Allan Tait.
Hampton, on the other and, had battered their opponents' goal, and Ian Hodges alone could have had four goals before the break.
Yaku also missed a sitter, while Orlando Jeffrey went closest with a header clearer off the line from a corner.
Yaku was foiled by a brilliant save after the break, and then just failed to connect with a fantastic Graham Harper through-ball which would have put him one-on-one.
Ryan Lake also sent a belter just wide before Eastbourne took the lead against the run of play with six minutes left, sub Nathan Crabb following up after Lovett pushed Atkins' header onto the bar.
Glenn Harris and Alan Inns both went close as Hampton surged forward for an equaliser, but Eastbourne exploited the gaps at the back to score a second on the break through Paul Armstrong deep into injury time. BEAVERS: Lovett, Harper, Lake. R (Harris, 88), Jeffrey, Lake. S, Wells, Inns, Godfrey (McAuley, 77), Hodges, Yaku, Quarm. Subs not used: Paris, Fernandes, Matthews
A fan's view of the big day
HAMPTON deserved more, writes Les Rance . Most spectators at the game, even Eastbourne's, conceded that Hampton were the better side.
To be fair,nobody at Beveree expected to be in such an exalted position when the season got underway. The target was to stay in Blue Square South and look to push on in 2008/09.
As it now stands, pushing on in 2008/09 would involve taking the championship (a feat not beyond this group of players).
As for the game itself, there were 11 heroes (plus the subs) - and with that little bit of luck, who knows?
Skipper Dean Wells put in another towering performance. But in reality,the whole team did Hampton and their supporters proud. They didn't let themselves or anyone else down.
And a word about the fans, who kept up support for 90 minutes and after the game as well. Even when Hampton went behind the support didn't flag. There must have been close to 750 Hampton fans at the game, almost equalling the Eastbourne support.
Most supporters were realistic after the event that perhaps this success came a season too early. The club now has a breathing space to start to plan further improvements to the ground and bring in fresh investment on the back of this successful season.