Crowd favourite Steve McNulty was surprised and relieved to have his red card against Southport overturned and avoid the resulting three-game ban for violent conduct, writes Mark Wood.
Video evidence from the game showed that Sandgrounders keeper Danny Hurst’s hand had made contact with his foot as he tried to get up and inadvertently caught defender Luke Henry’s head with his boot.
As a result he was able to play a key role in Tuesday night’s 2-0 win over Salisbury City and will likely partner Alex Lacey in the heart of Town’s defence against Macclesfield Town on Saturday.
The experienced defender said: “I locked myself away for a couple of days, I just couldn’t get my head around it.
“I obviously went back to Liverpool, but I’m not the best person to be around when we’ve been beat anyway, especially getting a red card.
“We’ve all put eight long weeks work in and it’s very disappointing to get sent off in the first game. I’m just glad it’s got overturned.
“I think if you look at the DVD it shows that I don’t do nothing at all. He (the referee) said I’ve kicked out and he comes down holding his head, but the collision’s in the air.
“I do elbow him in the head as we’re going up in the air but that’s accidental. The ref think I’ve kicked out and kicked him in the head, but it was just a big massive relief that we did appeal it.
“And it’s not very often that you do get them overturned. I wasn’t expecting to get it overturned to be honest with you, just because I’ve been playing in the Conference for a number of years and it’s very rare to get them overturned. I think that’s the first one that I know about, so it was a massive relief.
“It was a relief when we got the phonecall about three o’clock on Tuesday that I could play.”
But he was keen not to ‘paper over the cracks’ of their disappointing opening day defeat.
McNulty continued: “I didn’t think I should be sent off to be honest, but that doesn’t take away from the result because I thought we should have kept 11 men on the pitch on Saturday. We didn’t play particularly well, but I thought we would have at least nicked a point out of the game the later the game went.
“The lads are fit and stuff so I was very disappointed, went home, didn’t think I should have been sent off, but rather than paper over the cracks we lost the game.”
McNulty has plenty of sympathy for team-mate Anthony Charles who faces a number of weeks on the sidelines after being forced off against Salisbury City on Tuesday night, but has faith that Lacey will be able to fill the void.
“We don’t know the extent of his injury at the minute,” he said. “We’re just hoping it’s not too bad and he’s out for four to six weeks, but the swelling’s too bad to tell how it is at the minute. So I think he goes back next week to see the specialist and see what that is.
“But I think if the gaffer thinks he needs to bring someone in then he’ll bring someone in as a cover, but Alex has done really well pre-season and I thought he did OK on Saturday. The gaffer just made the decision to take him out of the line-up a little bit.
“Which is good from the gaffer, he’s only a young boy and you don’t want him playing week in, week out now all the time and getting a bit upset when things aren’t going well for him, but the lad’s got bright future.”
McNulty wordless trudge from the field had been interpreted by some to be a sign of guilt, but he revealed he just saw no point in arguing as the captain’s armband worked it’s way to Lacey.
He said: “Obviously people were saying I didn’t protest much when I got sent off, but he’s shown me the red card so I’m not going to stand there and argue.
“I was just coming off the pitch and I’d forgotten about it (the armband) and Scott Griffiths just headed over and I passed it on and I don’t know whether the message got put on to give it to Alex Lacey, I’m not sure, but it’s great for him because there are a lot more experienced players on the pitch than him and it’s good for him that the gaffer is showing the faith that he is showing in him.”
And McNulty is determined that Luton should turn Kenilworth Road into a ‘fortress’ this season after grinding out a 2-0 victory over Salisbury on Tuesday.
He added: “Obviously teams come here and sit in. I thought Salisbury were a decent team on Tuesday, but anyone that comes to our home ground we need to turn it into a fortress this year, no matter who comes whether they are top of the league, bottom of the league, we just need to find a way to beat them, even if it’s not playing great football.
“I don’t think we played particularly well on Tuesday, but the main thing is we come away from the game with three points.”