YoungHeart Manawatu's clash with Otago United at Memorial Park yesterday deteriorated to something that barely resembled a football match.
For the record, Otago won 4-1 but not many people were thinking about the score at fulltime, with five men sent from the field in the second half.
Referee Nick Waldron spent plenty of time on his whistle, dishing out seven yellow cards and three reds which saw Alex Rufer, Dale Higham and Tom Mosquera sent off for the hosts and Matt Joy and Thomas Connor cooling their heels for Otago.
It was a hard game to be a part of for Manawatu captain Adam Cowan. "It's interesting even when the other team after the game are like ‘The ref's had a mozza'," he said. "Even to say that is being kind, I think. He needs to have a look at himself."
The referee's decisions weren't very popular with the vocal YoungHeart staff on the sideline and had coach Stu Jacobs storming off after the game.
Youngster Rufer was the first to be shown a red card, received for a mistimed challenge. Mosquera followed him two minutes later for a dangerous tackle, then, two minutes after that, Higham got his second yellow card and was sent from the field to leave Manawatu with only eight men.
Connor was given his marching orders for bringing down Manawatu striker Seule Soromon in Otago's goal-box and Joy was shown his second yellow for a dangerous challenge.
Aaron Burgess opened the scoring for Otago, scoring from the spot after Nathan Cooksley brought down Seamus Ryder in the box.
Regan Coldicott scored almost carbon-copy goals within five minutes of each other, slotting the ball down low past Matt Borren. Aaron Burgess scored another penalty and Soromon replied with one for Manawatu late in the game, but the cards killed off the game. "It's hard to play when you're playing eight versus nine," Cowan said.
Cowan was brutally honest about their performance, which leaves them three points adrift at the bottom of the table.
"It's embarrassing when you lose 4-1 to the bottom team. We've claimed that spot now, we're the worst team in the league.
"The only way we can go now is to start winning some games if we've got any players left, with injuries and that."
Manawatu have now conceded 25 goals this season which wasn't good enough for Cowan.
"To be fair we let in stupid goals, again. Simple errors, personal errors as well, that cost us goals and you can't win games when you leak goals like we have." Otago coach Richard Murray was pleased his team came away with the win despite the carnage.
"That's young boys," he said. "They've sort of lost the plot and started to unravel."
Manawatu host Hawke's Bay next weekend but may have a match against the Wellington Phoenix A side on Wednesday.
Otago United 4 (Aaron Burgess 11'-pen, 74', Regan Coldicott 62', 67') YoungHeart Manawatu 1 (Seule Soromon 86'-pen) HT 1-0.
Stats: Shots on target: YHM 5 OU 6. Shots off target: YHM 5 OU 2. Corners: YHM 1 OU 4. Yellow cards: YHM 4 Dale Higham 9' 79', Suele Soromon 61', Adam Cowan 77' OU: 3 Craig Ferguson 45', Matt Joy 1', 89'. Red cards: YHM 3 Alex Rufer 75', Tom Mosquera 77', Higham 79' OU: 2 Thomas Connor 86' Joy 89'.
- Manawatu Standard