Hartley Wintney and Frimley Green will learn their fate in the next 48 hours after their FA Cup derby clash was abandoned on Saturday following violent clashes between rival players in the tunnel at half-time.
The Combined Counties League pair face the risk of being thrown out of the competition after trouble erupted outside the changing rooms at Hartley’s Memorial Ground following a fiery first half, which saw Frimley Green’s Andrew Grace sent off for violent conduct.
A copy of the referee’s report was subsequently sent to the Football Association to allow an FA Commission to decide whether the Extra Preliminary round match should be replayed or if one, or both, clubs should be expelled from the competition.
The trouble started in the 28th minute when Green skipper Grace was controversially sent off for an alleged elbow on Row defender Steve Noakes in the penalty box, resulting in Craig Barker stroked home the resulting spot kick to equalise Matt Stamp’s earlier strike.
Louis Hibbert regained Green’s lead just before the break with an excellent free-kick, but ill-feeling from the earlier incident spilled out after the half-time whistle with Hartley claiming that full-back Marc Vockins was punched as the teams headed back down the tunnel.
However, Green boss Derren Martin insists the club have received written confirmation from the FA that they have been exonerated for their part in the incident and fully expect either to replay the game or be handed a bye into the next round.
Martin said: “The FA have told us there will no further action against us. Passions were running high and it was a very unfortunate incident, but one that you see, unfortunate, at football grounds all over the country on a Saturday afternoon.
“Personally, I am disappointed that the referee felt the need to abandon the game but if there was a threat made to one of the match officials, as alleged, then I understand that needs investigating.
“Andrew Grace will be punished as normal by the FA for the sending off, but he has my backing and there will be no internal inquiry.”
Hartley Wintney, however, have filed a very different version of events, but after last season’s glory run in the FA Cup – which saw the club reach the fourth qualifying round for the first time in its history – the club are desperate to stay in the competition.
Player/boss Ben Dillon added: “I do not blame Frimley Green as a club or my players, this is an incident born from one individual who had a moment of madness and I hope the FA Commission see that for what it is.
“To be thrown out of the competition, especially after the euphoria of last year, would be devastating for this club, and, quite honestly, totally unjust too.”