BROWNE ON THE BALL: I’m confused, are rules there to be obeyed or broken?

Was this a foul or a coming together? Was Conor Marshall covering? Should Carl Piergianni have walked?
Was this a foul or a coming together? Was Conor Marshall covering? Should Carl Piergianni have walked?

Dennis Greene called it a joke. Nobody was laughing.

Boston United’s 4-0 defeat at Harrogate Town on Saturday was - to steal a line from Edmund Blackadder - madder than Mad Jack McMad, winner of this year’s Mr Madman competition.

The bonkers tone was set in the third minute when referee Mark Ackerman sent Pilgrims defender Carl Piergianni from the field of play after his collision with Town striker Ashley Worsfold.

Yes, the Harrogate forward was looming down on goal, but from my vantage point, at least, the forward seemed to be 25 yards from goal and not completely in control of the ball.

Furthermore, the picture above this article may also back up the argument that Conor Marshall was certainly in a position to cover had Worsfold not gone down, dispelling the argument that the Boston defender prevented a clear goalscoring opportunity.

Referee Ackerman manages Skrill North matches because he is qualified to do so, having passed plenty of exams, assesments and fitness tests and - perhaps to his credit - made a brave decision so early in the game (I disagree with the argument that a player should not be sent off because the game is still in its infancy - a conceded goal and a broken leg aren’t chalked off as half punishments because they took place before the 10-minute mark).

In Ackerman’s opinion, and he was in a better position than I, Piergianni prevented a goalscoring opportunity and - because the ref believes that rules are rules - Piergianni had to walk.

But that’s where he makes a rod for his own back.

There can be no complaints from United about Lewis King’s dismissal.

He handled outside the area and prevented a goal.

Rules, after all, are rules.

Down to nine men and on the back foot, United made three tactical substitutions.

And here’s where the match went from off-the-wall to off-the-scale.

Jamie McGhee hobbled off injured after being on the receiving end of a terrible challenge (no booking, I thought rules are rules?) and Rene Steer soon followed, carried to the dressing room after getting injured.

United were now down to seven and, as rules are rules, one more injury would mean the match had to be abandoned.

The inevitable happened - with Harrogate 4-0 up - when Stefan Galinski went down with a hamstring strain.

Rules are rules, and the rules state that an injured player must leave the field of play after receiving treatment.

But that would have meant an immediate abandonment.

Instead, referee Ackerman tweaked the rules to allow the virtually immobile Galinski to return to the field, where Harrogate attempted keep ball until the worried referee blew his whistle, bang on 90 minutes.

Now, if rules are rules, there should have been at least two minutes added on for the four second-half substitutions, plus time for goal celebrations and plenty of injury time.

If rules are rules, we should have had at least eight extra minutes, I reckon.

It would have been unfair and ridiculous had Harrogate, comfortably in front, not claimed the points and Ackerman - whose injury had led to Colwyn Bay 0 Altrincham 2 controversially being abandoned after 83 minutes earlier this season - probably felt he was doing the sensible thing.

He probably was. But it was frustrating to watch the consistency suddenly disappear from the official’s afternoon. Had he continued to follow the rules correctly, an abandonment may well have had to happen.

Unfortunate, unfair, wrong - but rules are rules.