Broadbridge Heath boss Steve Painter says the club is ‘absolutely devastated’ at having been booted out of the Peter Bentley Cup for fielding an ineligible player.
The Bears have had their semi-final place in the competition taken away from them after an oversight in their 2-1 quarter-final victory over Little Common on Tuesday, March 1.
The Commoners have been reinstated in the competition and will face Lancing in the last four on Tuesday April 12 at Eastbourne United AFC, with the winners playing Newhaven or Horsham in the final.
Painter says the club as a whole accepts responsibility and admits he feels ‘gutted’ for having let his players down.
He said: “It’s terrible and absolutely gutting, the whole club is absolutely devastated.
“We had to break the news to the lads over the weekend, but didn’t want to announce it until is was confirmed. I just feel sorry for the players.”
Heath substitute Martin Mutungi came off the bench in the match having already appeared and scored for St Francis Rangers in the competition when they lost 7-4 to Newhaven in the second round last August.
Confusion arose with the player having gone travelling for a number of months midway though the season and Heath overlooked that he had been transferred.
Painter added: “There is not just one person to blame or any proportion of blame on any one person.
“It’s the first mistake the club has made in the six years I have been here and one of those things, we missed it.
“There was no intention, we would never do that. It’s just a gut-rencher for the club.
“We do thing the right away at Broadbridge Heath and it’s upsetting as our season was all setting up around the semi-final, it was the icing on the cake.
“We all make mistakes, collectively we have missed it and you can’t dress it up any other way. I feel we have let the players down, and that is a we, not an individual.
“We all take the blame, me, my management team and the committee.”
The Southern Combination Football League announced the news on Twitter and said ‘unfortunately’ Heath were removed ‘due to playing an ineligible player in the previous round’.
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