Swindon Town 1 Harrogate Town 1: Sulphurites denied by 'really, really harsh' late penalty

Harrogate Town manager Simon Weaver described the decision to award Swindon Town a penalty late on in Saturday's League Two clash at the County Ground as "really, really harsh".

Jack Diamond beats Jojo Wollacott to fire Harrogate Town into a first-half lead at Swindon Town. Picture: Matt Kirkham

With the Sulphurites leading through Jack Diamond's first-half strike, referee Alan Young took it upon himself to hand the home side an 81st-minute life-line when Jayden Mitchell-Lawson appeared to lose his footing inside the box as he ran away from Lewis Page.

Jack Payne stepped up and converted from 12 yards, earning the Robins a share of the spoils and leaving Weaver to question whether the man in the middle succumbed to pressure from the stands and the home dug-out.

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"I feel sorry for Lewis Page because it's clearly not a penalty. The player is already going down," the Harrogate chief said.

Harogate Town goalkeeper Mark Oxley is beaten by Jack Payne's late spot-kick.

"I've seen the replay and it's a really, really harsh decision. I think he [Young] has probably surprised a lot of people on the pitch. With around five minutes to go, it makes it even more frustrating because we'd defended ever so well.

"You've got to be fair to the referee, it's a difficult job he has in front of 8,000 [people] who are baying for blood, you've got so many members of staff here appealing for everything - and quite rightly. You just don't want the pressure to pay off, but it did.

"All we want is for referees not to buckle under the strain of a partisan crowd, so it's bitterly disappointing for the whistle to be blown [for Swindon's penalty]. I've seen the video and it's conclusive, it shouldn't have been given.

"He [Mitchell-Lawson] slipped before any contact was made but the referee checked around him and then blew and sometimes you wonder what is going through people's minds."

Luke Armstrong looked as if he had given Town an early lead when he lifted a sixth-minute effort over Jojo Wollacott, only for the assistant referee to rule that Rob Hunt hooked the ball clear before it crossed the goal-line.

Lloyd Kerry drew a flying save from Wollacott with a fierce first-time strike from distance and Armstrong nodded Page's inviting cross from the left just past the near post before the visitors edged ahead on 24 minutes.

Mark Oxley's long clearance was misjudged by Kaine Kessler-Hayden, allowing Diamond to run in behind and confidently nutmeg the advancing Swindon goalkeeper.

Trailing at the interval, the Robins managed to apply some pressure to the Harrogate goal as the second half wore on, Payne firing over before Tyreece Simpson just failed to apply a finishing touch to a dangerous cross from the left.

But, having been unable to force a breakthrough, they were gifted a route back into the contest by Mr Young, who pointed to the spot after Mitchell-Lawson went to ground as he burst into the box.

Parity restored, an eventful finale ensued and both teams had opportunities to go on and claim all three points, Simpson shooting into the side-netting before Louis Reed fired narrowly wide for the hosts.

At the other end, substitute Jack Muldoon and Armstrong saw close-range efforts blocked as Swindon threw bodies on the line following good approach play down the left by Diamond.

In stoppage-time, Town survived a clearer shout for a penalty as Ellis Iandolo was booked for simulation before Warren Burrell's horrific miskick almost led to the Robins snatching a 97th-minute winner.

But, George Thomson got back to make a sensational block from Payne, Oxley then standing tall and denying the same player on the follow-up.

Saturday's result sees Town drop one place to seventh in the League Two standings.