Cunningham red card proves costly as Leiston lose to Wingate & Finchley

Danny Cunningham gets sent off.

Danny Cunningham gets sent off. - Credit: Archant

Leiston boss Richard Wilkins was fuming with Danny Cunningham, after the midfielder’s farcical sending-off contributed to the Blues’ shock home defeat to Wingate & Finchley in the Ryman Premier Division on Saturday.

The Blues suffered their fourth straight league defeat, courtesy of substitute Karl Oliyide’s 87th-minute tap-in, but Wilkins believes the outcome would have been different had the hosts kept 11 men on the pitch.

While the result seriously dented Leiston’s play-off aspirations, the red card for midfielder Cunningham was the major talking point.

The Blues struggled against the breeze in the first half and the last thing they needed was to lose a player so cheaply.

The flashpoint came in the 44th minute when referee Robert Hyde accidentally collided with Cunningham, who came off second-best as a result.

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However, instead of seeing the funny side, just like the 152 spectators watching at Victory Road, Cunningham – who was cutting an increasingly frustrated figure as the Blues toiled – took exception to the clash and, after protesting to the official too vociferously, was eventually given a red card for dissent.

After the game, Wilkins said: “The turning point was Daniel Cunningham getting sent off, it’s not good enough. It’s not acceptable and there will be repercussions.

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“You try as much as possible to give players a second chance and he has not covered himself in glory today.

“I don’t think him being off the pitch gave us any help and had he been on the pitch, I think we would have won.

“Second half, with the wind, up the hill, we looked useful with 10 men, it’s just a typical thing that happens at the moment.

“We are struggling a bit with confidence, we have conceded a lot of goals recently and we all have to stick together and work extremely hard.

“He’s (Cunningham) let us down today because to a man, everyone worked their socks off and there’s not a lot to say to the boys, one mistake cost us.”

Wilkins who revealed he had not spoken to Cunningham after the game, added: “I have known him for a long time and he’s been good for us, but you can’t have that sort of attitude and liability on the pitch.

“It was an accident, the referee is not going to foul him. To have a go at him once and get a yellow card and then have another go, undermines myself, the players and the club.”

The visitors scored the only goal of the game three minutes from time, finishing from close range after the dangerous Alex Addai sped down the right wing and squared the ball into the penalty box for Oliyide to despatch.

The game had looked destined to end goalless at that point – a dearth of chances making for a dull game on a bitterly cold afternoon.

Leiston edged the second half but the fact that Patrick Brothers’ low cross-shot, which was easily collected by goalkeeper Bobby Smith in the 53rd minute, was the Blues’ first shot on target, told you all you needed to know about the game.

Wingate, managed by former Braintree Town assistant boss, Keith Rowland, were floundering in mid-table and had nothing to lose. They looked the brighter in the first-half as Tom Winter was left isolated in attack for the hosts.

And they nearly took when Ola Sogbanmu took aim from range, but Ashlee Jones made a superb one-handed stop to tip the ball over the bar.

In the main, Wilkins’ men huffed and puffed and the visitors almost added a second in injury-time when Oliyide, Addai and striker, Billy Healey, all spurned the chance to score in the last few seconds of the game, after the former had broken away after a Leiston attack.

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