ANTHONY JOHNSON’S worst nightmare became reality as referee David McNamara played a starring role in ending Chester’s play-off dreams.

McNamara, famous for being suspended after using rock, paper, scissors in place of a coin toss in a Women’s Super League fixture back in November 2018, was again in the spotlight early into the second-half at Moss Lane.

The man in black adjudged that John Johnston had fouled Dan Mooney, who was closing in on Louis Gray’s goal, and showed the former Altrincham winger a straight red card.

It was a double blow for the Blues, who were not only forced to watch Elliott Durrell convert the resulting penalty to add to Josh Hancock’s first-half opener, but play the remaining 38 minutes a man down.

The replay shows minimal contact was made by Johnston on Mooney, who spent time on loan with the Blues last season, and joint-boss Johnson was outraged by the decision, not only to award the penalty, but to also send Johnston off given the double jeopardy law.

“At the time I thought it was a disgrace and I think it even more so now I’ve seen it back,” declared Johnson. “If there is anybody that disagrees with me they’ve got to be blind. That’s how I see it.

“I’ll be honest, I put a tweet out when I saw who was refereeing the game a couple of weeks back and it was one of those (emojis of someone) being sick, because there’s always that element of decision-making that seems to be in games he plays a part.

“It wasn’t just that (the penalty and red card) I watched one of their players back-heel the ball out for a goal-kick and he gives a corner, I watched one of their players kick one of ours on the floor - a straight red card - and I think he gave them a free-kick.

“It’s not like I’m just going on about the goal that’s changed our season.

“I don’t want to sound bitter because they are a good side, we’ve got a lot of respect for Altrincham and the management team and they are a good team, but it’s clear that decision has changed the game.”

Up until then there wasn’t much between the two sides as Hancock’s effort squirmed under the body of Gray, who had earlier made two fantastic saves to keep the scores level, to put Altrincham in-front.

But once Durrell had doubled the Altrincham advantage the Robins quickly added a a third, the former Blue grabbing his second of the game, via a deflection that took the ball beyond the grasp of Gray.

“What an awful, horrible way to go out of the play-offs - through a sending off, because it looked like it was set up for a brilliant game,” continued Johnson. “I think we’ve seen over the past few weeks that games behind-closed-doors have been pretty poor, and from my point of view, it was a really good quality game.

“Two good sides and there was plenty in the game after the obvious decision was made.

“I was going to say it killed the game for us, but actually we ended up finishing the game so strongly in the last 20 minutes.”

Chester, playing for free after donating their wages to the cause, mustered the type of response that will come as no surprise to their loyal fans.

Three goals and a man down, the Blues rolled the dice and went for the kill. Out of nowhere it was like a switch had been flicked and Chester dominated proceedings.

George Waring, who didn’t lose a header all afternoon, hunted down the Altrincham defence, who surrendered possession to substitute Anthony Dudley, the striker working space for a low cross that the onrushing George Glendon fired home.

And it was two more substitutes that combined for Chester’s second goal soon after, Matty Waters delivering an inch-perfect cross from the left for Matty Hughes to head home at the back post.

But try as they might, Chester, who moved Danny Livesey into an attacking role late on, couldn’t find a leveller, referee McNamara having one final say as he waved away an appeal for a penalty after Jamie Morgan fell to the floor under pressure.

Joint-boss Johnson, sent-off for kicking a drink onto the pitch after his side’s penalty appeals were dismissed, summed up life for the Blues when he said: “It is cruel, it’s a cruel game that always seems to be cruel for us at this football club.

“We feel like we’ve got it going in the direction it needed to and hopefully everyone else has seen it the way we’ve seen it and the players have put in a performance that everyone can go away and be proud of.”

It’s Altrincham who head to York City next Saturday, though, while Gateshead will be making the trip to Boston United after they beat Kevin Wilkin’s Brackley Town 6-5 on penalties following a 1-1 draw in normal time.