Leeds United to launch FA protest over Carlisle pitch trouble

THE row over Simon Grayson's claim that three Leeds United players were attacked after his side's Johnstone's Paint Trophy exit escalated last night as the Yorkshire club vowed to take their complaint to the Football Association.

United's manager made the allegation immediately after hundreds of Carlisle United fans had poured on to the Brunton Park pitch to celebrate their team's penalty shoot-out victory on Tuesday night.

Grayson was angry at the failure of police and stewards to intervene as Shane Lowry, who missed the decisive spot-kick as the Cumbrians triumphed 6-5, and two others were either pushed or punched.

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Click here to read the match report from Brunton Park >>

Click here to read Simon Grayson's response to the pitch invasion >>

He insisted on making his point to the officer leading the police operation straight after the Northern Area final.

Carlisle responded yesterday with managing director John Nixon insisting the situation had been dealt with "in textbook fashion" and that stewards and police officers had worked together to bring the pitch invasion under control "as quickly as possible".

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Chief Inspector Mark Pannone, of Cumbria Police, who led the policing operation at the match, also claimed the situation had been dealt with "swiftly and robustly".

He said: "We are disappointed by Mr Grayson's comments. The policing and the stewarding of the match was conducted in a restrained and professional manner.

"The job of the police is to support the stewards, to prevent disorder and respond to incidents as they occur, which is exactly what we did.

"As soon as the pitch invasion commenced we began working with the stewards to clear the pitch and protect the away fans."

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Despite both Carlisle and the local police insisting all had been done to try to minimise the risk of trouble, Leeds intend registering their protest with the FA.

United chief executive Shaun Harvey said: "Our players found themselves in danger, which isn't what you want to see.

"I have spoken to Simon (Grayson) this morning and, on reflection, he feels the same way as he did on Tuesday – that his players were put at risk.

"We will be contacting the FA to make the complaint, and we have spoken to Carlisle and the Cumbrian Police on the basis that we are going to make the complaint.

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"We will make that and it will be up to the FA to address that," he said.

"What we hope to achieve is a review of the arrangements that were in place, that ultimately people learn a lesson from what happened, that a group of players are never subject to that again and if any lessons can be learned on a wider scale."

Leeds manager Grayson also alleged missiles had been thrown at goalkeeper Casper Ankergren by fans standing in the Warwick Road End where the shoot-out took place.

Harvey added: "It wasn't textbook in our view. It certainly wasn't the same textbook we would have used.

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"They certainly succeeded in keeping the two sets of supporters apart, which I firmly believe was the priority for them.

"What they haven't done is protect the safety of our players, so if the roles had been reversed I would have stopped short of saying it was a textbook approach, although they are entitled to their view as we are to ours,"he added.

Leeds have also questioned the decision to stage the penalty shoot-out in front of the Carlisle fans instead of at the opposite end where the terrace was empty.

Harvey added: "How someone can justify that it's not safe to take them in front of an open terrace with no supporters is a question I'm glad I don't have to answer."

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As determined as United are to bring the matter to the attention of the FA, they will ensure the controversy does not deflect focus from the League One programme.

Grayson's men travel to Leyton Orient on Saturday looking to overhaul Norwich City's two-point lead at the top of the division. The Canaries travel to Brighton.

Harvey added: "We would like to offer our congratulations to Carlisle United on reaching the final of the Johnstone's Paint Trophy.

"We will turn our attentions on the field to our remaining 18 league games and our quest for promotion."