Kettering 0-3 Leamington: FA probe cup tie delayed by floodlight failure with three red cards

Former Mansfield, Torquay, Barrow and Guiseley boss Paul Cox has been in charge at Kettering since 2019
Former Mansfield, Torquay, Barrow and Guiseley boss Paul Cox has been in charge at Kettering since 2019

The Football Association are looking into Tuesday's FA Trophy tie between Kettering Town and Leamington which ended at 23:22 GMT, with 3-0 losers Kettering down to eight men.

A two-hour delay for floodlight failure added to already frayed tempers, which led to three red cards.

One was for Kettering captain Michael McGrath, who appeared to tap referee Adrian Quelch's chest.

"It's left a bitter taste in my mouth," said Kettering manager Paul Cox.

"I have never been involved in such a bizarre game of football in my life."

An FA spokesman said: "The FA is aware of a number of reported incidents at Kettering Town v Leamington in the FA Trophy and will be looking into them."

The last-16 tie had been switched to Leamington by Kettering because of concerns about the state of the pitch at their ground at Burton Latimer - and it did not take long for Cox's side to lose their 'home advantage'.

After going a goal down inside a minute, Kettering were 3-0 behind inside half an hour - and still trailing by the same scoreline when the floodlights failed at half-time, just after 20:30.

It took about two hours to restore the supply and allow the teams to play the second half during which Connor Kennedy and Connor Johnson were each sent off for two bookable offences - but McGrath's earlier dismissal after allowing his arm to make contact with referee Quelch was still the game's main talking point.

'Players were getting ready to go home'

"I know someone has said that Macca hit the referee," Cox told the Northamptonshire Telegraph. "That didn't happen. We've seen the video since. But it was a total lack of discipline. We will deal with that internally.

"From then onwards, the night became bizarre.

"I spoke to the referee about 10 minutes after we should have come back out for the second half. He said he was going to give it until 9.18pm and, if the lights weren't on, then he was going to call the game off, to which everyone said 'not a problem'.

"It got to 9.18pm and our players were starting to get ready to go home but we kept getting told that it needs another 10 minutes and then another 10 minutes and another and another.

"We have hung around for the best part of two hours. Half of our players were dressed when the referee came in and said the lights would be going on 'soon'.

"So we gave it another 10 minutes and another 10 minutes but it got to the point where the referee had to seek advice from the FA and they insisted the game had to be played on the night."

'Common sense went out of the window'

The two sides, who both play league fixtures in National League North - with Leamington currently eighth and Kettering 18th - were eventually told to get ready to restart.

Cox added: "In the end, the referee asked how long we needed to warm up and I just said we'd been standing still for an hour and a half and that we would need a proper warm up. He ignored that and told us we were kicking off at 10.30pm. We were still warming up when he wanted to kick off the second half.

"I know there were phone calls going into the FA and complaints going in about officials so we will need to look at what happened and why it happened before I say too much more.

"They basically forgot that human beings were here. It was pitch black at times, people were standing around for two hours and it went against every health and safety protocol that is in place.

"People were standing in corridors, there was no two metres. No masks. It was like a rudderless ship. It needed someone to take control and to make a decision.

"I am disappointed with a number of things. But logic and common sense has really gone out of the window for the sake of playing a football match to an end."

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