Ebbsfleet United manager Dennis Kutrieb on the decision to appoint referee Jason Richardson for the National League South play-off final at Dorking Wanderers

Ebbsfleet have requested a change of match official ahead of Saturday’s National League South play-off final.

Referee Jason Richardson was the shock appointment for the game as he took charge of the corresponding league game between the two teams which saw Fleet reduced to 10 men in the first 16 minutes of a defeat 5-1.

Fleet boss Dennis Kutrieb makes his point to the assistant referee. Photo: Barry Goodwin

This put the official in an awkward position and he had a major influence on the result, with Dorking scoring a spectacular equalizer in stoppage time long after Fleet felt the full-time whistle should have been blown.

“We informed everyone in the league and they said no, it’s fine,” Kutrieb said.

“I told the boys during the week that we have to keep going, we just have to be better no matter what the referee does. We were better and only the last seconds were missing.

“We tried to minimize it, even with the boys. I didn’t tell them it was the referee, I just told them to do whatever it is on the pitch.

“We have to be ready to make decisions and to be fair they were exceptional because nobody got a yellow card for moaning. I promise you if I was a player today I would get a minimum yellow card, maybe – be an eviction – 100%.

“The boys did very well because nobody said anything, they just tried again and again.”

Ebbsfleet's Jack Paxman is shown a yellow card in the first half.  Photo: Barry Goodwin
Ebbsfleet’s Jack Paxman is shown a yellow card in the first half. Photo: Barry Goodwin

As well as the referee’s previous history with the fleet, one assistant referee was on the line when Kutrieb saw red at Maidstone earlier this season while the other canceled out a free-kick from the referee to award a penalty at Havant in the league clash in February. .

There was no need to put officials – or clubs – in this position, so it’s no surprise that it left a sour taste for Kutrieb.

“That was definitely my worst fear,” added the Fleet boss, who publicly kept quiet about the date before the game. “It wasn’t just the referee.

“The linesman on my side was the Maidstone one who could see what he was doing to us there. The other was Havant’s who decided it wasn’t a free kick, it was a penalty. It was never a penalty but he decided it was a pen.

“For me, it’s very embarrassing but I can’t change it. I don’t want to be here (and people think) ‘oh, he can’t lose’ but it’s awkward for me to accept the two linesmen and then the referee who was here four months ago.

“The referee said there were three minutes left (left) and after four minutes and 20 seconds it was a goal. It’s gone now, we can’t change it anyway. We can talk about it but we cannot change it. Now we have to suffer.

Referee Jason Richardson and his assistants lead the timeouts for the play-off final at Dorking.  Photo: Barry Goodwin
Referee Jason Richardson and his assistants lead the timeouts for the play-off final at Dorking. Photo: Barry Goodwin

“He (the referee) told me before the game that he didn’t want to have any influence. For me, it’s unbelievable that he was allowed to get the final, with the performance of the past.

“Everything was really awkward for me but I don’t want to give the impression that I’m angry because we lost but you have to have better referees at this level, especially when it’s a final. For me it’s ridiculous.

“I am really exhausted and disappointed. Everyone who was here knows what happened, so I don’t want to talk too much about it, but obviously when you’re so disappointed, it’s not easy not to talk about it.

The fourth referee indicates six minutes stoppage after 90 minutes.  Photo: Barry Goodwin
The fourth referee indicates six minutes stoppage after 90 minutes. Photo: Barry Goodwin