DEAN SAUNDERS did not think Neil Ashton deserved to get sent-off in yesterday’s Welsh derby against Newport County.
Andy Morrell gave Wrexham a first half lead at The Newport Stadium but left-back Ashton was shown a straight red card just minutes into the second half for pulling down Kerry Morgan in the area as he shaped to shoot.
Craig Reid struck the bar with his penalty but Newport, unbeaten at home since March 2009, eventually grabbed an 89th minute equaliser as the first league meeting between the sides since 1988 ended in a draw.
But Saunders thought it was harsh dismissing Ashton and admitted it turned the shape of the game.
“I haven’t seen it on the television but I didn't think it was a penalty,” said Saunders.
“Curtis Obeng is four yards away from Neil so even if he did give a penalty, I didn't think it was a sending off.
“I said to their manager (Dean Holdsworth) before the game that this game would probably be decided be the referee.
“We were cruising. I thought we could have gone on and got more goals in the second half.
“We were dominating the game but things like that happen in this league on a regular basis.
“I would like to see it on the television but from where I was stood, it just looked like it was shoulder to shoulder.
“Unless you want the defender to say 'go on then, you go and score, I'll get out of the way,' I thought it was shoulder to shoulder and so did Neil. He said to me it wasn't a penalty.”
Newport goalkeeper Glyn Thompson had handled outside the area in the first half and Saunders commented: “I didn't see where he was and what was happening.
But the letter of law, it probably is (a red card), whether there were any defenders behind him.”
Resolute defending kept Newport at bay and Saunders was delighted with the effort from his players as they battled to hold onto their lead.
“I am really pleased with the way we played,” said Saunders. “That is the best we have knocked it about first half.
“The first part of the game was always going to be difficult and then we settled down and got control of it.
“We had a few other chances to score, they had one early on in the game, and they kept plugging away.
“But I thought the ten men that were on the pitch battled really well and fought. To lose a goal in the last minute I thought was really harsh on them.”
Marvin Andrews was a late withdrawal after injuring his hamstring in the warm-up, with the fit-again Frank Sinclair, originally named on the substitutes bench, starting in the centre of defence.
Saunders, whose side are unbeaten in four matches, added: “I took Andy Morrell off because he was struggling. I put Andy Mangan on, we needed fresh legs and to try and get in their half, it is difficult when you have only got ten men.
“I am pleased with them and we have got a point, that is four games undefeated so that is the plusses to come out of it.
“I lost Marvin in the warm-up, bad things just happen to us on a regular basis and I can't get my head around it sometimes.
“We played Barrow last week and absolutely pummelled them, and ended up with a point. The referee gave a penalty against us in the last minute at Eastbourne which cost us a point.
“And losing Marvin, who felt his hamstring in the warm-up, I thought 'here we go.' But I can't complain about the players, the effort was tremendous.”
Saunders was particularly pleased with the performance of goalkeeper Scott Shearer who made a couple of excellent saves to keep Wrexham in the lead before Newport's late leveller.
“Scott played well and made some good saves,” added Saunders. “He come for some difficult balls in front of him as well.
“It is coming together. We have got some decent players there.
“We have probably only got 19 players but when you look at the bench, we had Jamie Tolley, Gareth Taylor, David Brown, Andy Mangan and Frank Sinclair to start with, I have definitely got a better group than I had last year.”