Stevenage boss Steve Evans critical of referee after FA Cup defeat at Stoke

Steve Evans criticised referee David Webb’s performance as Stevenage’s FA Cup run came to an end with a 3-1 defeat at Stoke.

The League Two promotion hopefuls were denied a penalty for handball by Josh Laurent with Stoke holding a slender 2-1 lead, with the Potters awarded a controversial spot-kick of their own soon after following Jonathan Tomkinson’s challenge on Jacob Brown.

Webb then admitted his mistake on the pitch, according to Evans.

“We don’t get a penalty for a handball and the referee’s excuse is that the hand’s by his side,” the Stevenage boss said.

“I’ve seen a rerun of it and it’s a penalty.

“And then he gives Stoke City a penalty and that’s never a penalty; it’s a great challenge.

“He then watches the replay as we kick off again and he’s then told my players that he got it wrong.

“How does that motivate my players to come back in a cup tie? Somebody needs to explain that.

“The referee effectively kills the cup tie, but we’re very proud of our efforts in the FA Cup.

“It’s a shocking decision and my players were really hurting with the referee running around saying, ‘I got it wrong’.”

Brown put the hosts ahead inside two minutes before Jamie Reid – who scored Stevenage’s winner at Aston Villa in the third round – prodded home the equaliser in the second half.

The visitors’ celebrations were cut short, though, when Laurent fired in from long range and Lewis Baker converted the 80th-minute penalty.

In the process, Stoke secured back-to-back wins for the first time since October as they advanced to round five.

Boss Alex Neil said: “It’s job done – they were always going to come and fight for every ball and make it difficult.

“I thought our response to the equaliser was excellent as, at that point, you can feel doubt in yourself, and their fans start to get behind them.

“They had a bit of vigour and belief, but I thought we took that away from them with a wonderful goal from Laurent.

“I thought we merited the win and we’re deservedly through to the next round.

“We’ve spoken a lot about getting a connection with the fans, which is vitally important for any successful team.

“If your fans believe in you, it really is like a 12th man on the pitch at times.

“We want to give them something to shout about and a team they can relate to and be proud of.

“We know we’ve still got a lot of work to do but we’re doing our best to get there as quickly as we can.”