MANAGER Steve Riley refused to defend the indefensible after goalkeeper Gareth Barfoot’s rush of blood to the head had triggered AFC Totton’s 4-0 defeat at Hitchin Town.
With the score 0-0, Barfoot was given his marching orders for violent conduct against marksman John Frendo, who went on to plunder a hat-trick against the ten-man Stags.
The 26th-minute flashpoint began when Frendo stood in front of the experienced Totton keeper as he was trying to get his kick away.
Frendo got a touch to the ball, Barfoot dived at his feet to retrieve it and, as he got up, he appeared to head-butt the Hitchin frontman.
Goalkeeping coach Steve Hollick, 35, took over between the sticks in the absence of Barfoot’s young understudy Ross Casey, who is serving a suspension after being sent off while on loan to Winchester City.
Hitchin were kept at bay until the 43rd minute when Frendo was fouled in the area and got up to sink the spot kick.
Ten-man Totton started the second half well and went close when Jono Davies’s shot was turned away by Martin Bennett for a corner.
Having already been forced to withdraw Mike Gosney due to a quad injury, Riley took off Ryan Hill and Davies, who were both on yellow cards, and put on the fresh legs of Luke Roberts and Matt Oldring.
But there was no stopping Frendo who chipped Hollick to make it 2-0 in the 51st minute and completed his hat-trick with a fabulous 40-yard volley after Jake Woolley had headed home a third.
“At 1-0 we still looked a threat and we worked our socks off,” said Riley, whose play-off hunting side have slipped to eighth. “But Hitchin capitalised on a couple of defensive errors when we didn’t clear our lines and Frendo was a potent threat.
“There’s no defending what Gareth (Barfoot) did. He knows he let himself and the team down.
“The red mist came down and it’s not acceptable.
“Steve Hollick came in and did well. He got a touch to the penalty and was a bit unfortunate (not to save it), he dealt with crosses well and his handling was good.
“We could have done better with two of the goals, if I’m going to be critical, but the fourth was a worldy.
“A lot of things didn’t go for us today and we’ve got to draw a line under this one and move on.
“We’ve been on a good run and it’s a shame it’s come to an end in controversial circumstances.”
Totton, who have won just twice on their league travels all season, now face two more tough away tasks. They visit third-placed Stourbridge tomorrow and fourth-placed Barwell on Saturday.
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