BARRY Yeo praised his Barnstaple Town players for not being distracted by the strangest refereeing decision he had ever seen.
Radstock Town goalkeeper Ashley Maw was shown the red card for catching the ball just outside his area in the third minute of Saturday’s Toolstation Western League match.
Bizarrely, referee Ali Francis then changed his mind and yellow-carded Maw instead.
Given that Radstock were beaten 7-0, you dread to think what would have happened to them if they had played for 87 minutes with 10 men and no specialist goalkeeper.
And it could have been even worse for the Somerset side because Jack Jenkins was denied a 22nd-minute goal by a blatant handball on the line.
Barnstaple manager Yeo said: “What was pleasing was there were two incidents in the first 20-odd minutes which I have never seen in my life and it didn’t affect the way the lads played. Player for player, they were really good.
“We’re scoring all types of goals – set pieces, crosses, individual goals – but they have got to understand it is only three points at the end of the day.”
It was Barnstaple’s fourth three points in a row in the First Division – a run which brought 26 goals. Four came in a madcap first half against Radstock.
Shrugging off the ref’s U-turn, Barnstaple took an eighth-minute lead with Billy Tucker curling in a shot from wide on the right after a short corner.
A minute after Jenkins was denied by the handball, it was 2-0 as Ryan Turner raced clear of the defence and finished clinically.
Tucker smashed a shot against the bar after taking a superb Jenkins pass and cutting inside on his left foot.
Seconds later the winger teed up Ross Jones to fire in the third goal. Jones was a last-minute addition at right back after Scott Huxtable was injured in the warm-up.
Captain Aaron Harper-Penman marked his return after two weeks out of the starting line-up by flying through the area to head in Tucker’s right-wing corner six minutes before half time.
Another header at a corner brought Barnstaple’s fifth goal with the unchallenged Lee Francis scoring from Jed Harper-Penman’s cross 10 minutes into the second half.
A minute later Francis was denied by a goalline clearance from Liam Planter. But it was only another 60 seconds before the midfielder again met a Harper-Penman corner and Jenkins touched the ball in at the back post.
Barnstaple went off the boil for much of the second half but still threatened through Turner, Will Nicholls, Shaun Copp and James Mayne.
The seventh goal finally came in the 85th minute when Jenkins tapped in after Maw had saved a shot by Jed Harper-Penman.
It was a richly-deserved double for Jenkins whose outstanding performance in midfield typified Barnstaple’s mix of hard work and flair.
“The high-tempo, pressing game – that’s what we’re good at,” said Yeo. “We lost to Witheridge (in the FA Cup) because we didn’t work hard enough.
“If we stop teams getting out then, in the last third, we are deadly.”