BELCONNEN United coach Steve Forshaw admits his team may have ''dodged a bullet'' in yesterday's 1-1 draw with Canberra City in the ACT Premier League after goalkeeper Rohan Shepherd escaped being sent-off for his first-half challenge that resulted in a broken ankle for Canberra City midfielder Brad Sawyer.
But in a game marred by controversy, Belconnen also disputed City's opening goal of the match and claimed they should have had a spot-kick after a challenge by City goalkeeper James Ward in the second-half.
The game at McKellar Park was stopped for more than five minutes after Shepherd brought down Sawyer in a one-on-one tackle just outside the goal-box in the 20th minute. Sawyer was stretchered off and taken to hospital.
City coach Matt Moore did not accuse Shepherd of deliberately injuring Sawyer, but said the nasty challenge deserved a red card.
''I don't blame [Shepherd], he didn't mean to do it, but the referee gives him a yellow [card] and the guy's got a broken leg,'' Moore said. ''The guy's done a two-foot tackle with studs up, I mean it's unacceptable. That's the kind of thing that leads to matches getting out of hand and people getting hurt like you saw today.
''Credit to Belconnen and our boys they didn't let that incident get to them and let it turn into a free-for-all with punch-ups and things like that.''
Forshaw said he sympathised with Sawyer, admitting referee Brett Woodford could have been more severe with the ruling.
''I just hope that the guy is okay and that he recovers quickly, obviously we don't want to see players hurt themselves that badly but we may have dodged a bullet there,'' Forshaw said.
''I'm not sure if it was a red card or not but [the referee] could have given it.''
Belconnen captain Taylor Beaton said: ''In another game it would be a send off, but it's just the ref's call. He may not have seen it the way some other people did but yes, definitely in some games that would be a send off but in others you wouldn't get anything.''
Scores were level 0-0 at the time of the incident, but the controversy continued when City was awarded the opening goal in the 30th minutes.
Belconnen's bench and players remonstrated after the goal was awarded, adamant Sam McDonald's lob for City had failed to cross the line.
''There was some interesting decisions but I mean even their boys thought that the ball didn't cross the line but the linesman reckons he was in a good position to see it so you've got to accept his word,'' Forshaw said.
With scores again level, 1-1 late in the second-half, Forshaw felt his team should have been awarded a penalty and the opportunity for a match-winner. Forshaw claimed Ward had brought down Belconnen's Matt Valeri inside the box.
City captain Adam Dobell was unable to finish the match, carried off with a back injury following a contest with Belconnen skipper Beaton.