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Lakenheath manager Ben Cowling 'utterly confused' by outcome of FA investigation in response to sin bin sub incident in FA Vase tie at Rugby Town

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Lakenheath boss Ben Cowling says he has been left ‘utterly confused’ by the outcome of an FA investigation into their claimed breach of the sin bin second offence substitution rule in their last 32 FA Vase defeat.

The village club’s submission to the governing body had indicated they were left to play out the final 15 minutes of their 5-1 loss at Rugby Town with 10 men after they claimed the fourth official ‘refused’ their request to replace Sam Hawley.

Their captain was sent to the sin bin – used for 10 minute temporary dismissals to deal with dissent towards match officials – for a second time in the 65th minute after the hosts had gone 3-0 up.

Ben Cowling is confused by the Football Association's response. Picture: Mark Westley
Ben Cowling is confused by the Football Association's response. Picture: Mark Westley

Cowling and his management team checked the FA website before approaching the fourth official to make a substitution at the end of Hawley’s allotted time, knowing he was not allowed back on himself.

In relation to the question ‘can you be sin binned more than once in a match?’ It gives the answer as: ‘if a player receives two sin bins but commits no other offence, they can be substituted’.

However, the FA’s competitions department has replied to the club via email saying they have been left ‘satisfied’ from considering the match officials’ reports that no substitution request was made and therefore ‘the laws of the game were correctly applied’.

Lakenheath’s video footage of the incident, which they had referenced, was not requested.

“I am utterly confused,” said Cowling, “I’m not entirely sure how the response has been reached.”

However, he said they would not be pursuing it any further, given the circumstances of the game itself.

“I think as a club we would be a lot more upset if had the scoreline been closer,” he said.

“We are not going to take it any further. We wanted to point out the non-application of the rules by the match officials and we have done that.

“The FA have decided not to take it any further and I guess that’s up to them.

“We are a group of volunteers. We have spent a lot of time scouring the Veo (video) etcetera already and we are just going to let it lie now.”

He added: “I don’t want the club or myself to come across as a bad loser, Rugby smashed us on the day.

“They took us apart, they played well and we didn’t, but for us I think it is just about accountability.”

An FA spokesperson told SuffolkNews: “We conducted a thorough investigation into The FA Vase Fourth Round Proper tie between Rugby Town and Lakenheath which included comments from Lakenheath and reports from both the referee and fourth official.

"We are satisfied that the Laws of the Game were applied correctly by the match officials, and that the fixture was completed in accordance with the rules of the competition.

"As a result, there will be no further action and the result of the match stands.”

In Monday’s draw Rugby Town were handed a last 16 tie at Tyne & Wear area Northern League Division One outfit North Shields on February 12. The winners will receive £2,250 of prize money.