AN AMATEUR football accused of breaking an opponent’s leg insisted in court his tackle was “a fair challenge”.

Sean Merryweather stressed his intention was “to win the ball” and he never intended to hurt Sam Richardson while playing for Acton Park in a North East Wales League clash against Penyffordd Lions.

Penyffordd player Mr Richardson suffered a fractured right tibia and fibia as a result of Merryweather’s challenge and underwent five operations and a skin graft.

Mr Richardson’s team mates claimed he was on the receiving end of a flying tackle and that Merryweather - who is accused of assault occasioning grievous bodily harm - had both feet off the ground at the time.

But the defendant told Mold Crown Court: “I won the ball and in the follow-up my knee caught his (Mr Richardson’s) shin.

“I wasn’t a high tackle, it was low. It was a strong challenge, but a fair challenge.”

Merryweather received a straight red card and opponents claimed he had left the pitch with “little to no remorse”.

But he said he was too shocked to react at the time and revealed he had not “stepped on a football pitch for 18 months” and didn’t want to play again.

“It was my first red card and I walked over to the side of the pitch. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know the extent of the injury.

“It is not me to go out there on the pitch and hurt someone. Their manager came over to me and put his arms around me and said “Chin up these things happen”.”

Prosecuting barrister Simon Mintz admitted that Merryweather’s previous disciplinary record was a good one and stressed: “I am not going to pretend you are a thuggish player, but you had already picked up a yellow card.

“I am going to suggest you were behaving in a way that was out of character for you. You were in an aggressive frame of mind.

“That day something wrong went wrong and you were on a very short fuse, do you accept that?”

But Merryweather denied the red mist had descended upon him and added: “I am not accepting it was a high tackle because it wasn’t. I never wanted to hurt anyone.”

Nikolaos Giotakis, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon at Broadgreen Hospital in Liverpool, said that the fractures to Mr Richardson’s right leg were at the same level suggesting the impact was below the knee.

Opponents have accused Merryweather of acting in an “overly aggressive manner” before the challenge on Mr Richardson.

Penyfford player Liam Hughes said: “I was five yards from the incident, Sam took a touch on the edge of the D. It was a half jump in, single footed and it was below the knee.

“It was excessive. The challenge was nowhere near winning the ball.”

And he added: “You knew Sam was injured by the way he went down -you could hear a snap.”

Team mate Mark Emberton said: “You normally see late tackles, but I’ve not seen as many as high as that.”

Merryweather, 28, of Llys-y-Groes, Wrexham denies assault occasioning grievous bodily harm on April 8 this year.

The trial continues