Neilston co-manager Derek Carson blasted the referee’s “nightmare” performance in his team’s 3-1 loss to league leaders Darvel at the weekend.

The Farmer’s Boys welcomed the table-toppers to Brig O’ Lea on Saturday as they went in search of their first home win since November.

And, after observing a minute’s silence in memory of long-serving committee member Hugh Blair, the hosts were right on track, thanks to Paul Stewart’s 20th-minute opener.

Stewart turned neatly in the penalty area before slotting home after Martin Curren played him through.

Neilston almost doubled their lead when Curren forced the Vale keeper into a top save.

However, the game turned on its head after a controversial call from the referee.

With Neilston 1-0 up, Darvel striker Darren Miller appeared to handle the ball in the box before firing past James Digney to level it at 1-1, with the ref seemingly turning a blind eye to the incident.

With the Brig side still reeling, the visitors raced up the park to get their noses in front, taking advantage of a rare Euan Clark mistake at the back.

There were plenty of positives there for Neilston in the second half but, as they searched for an equaliser, they left themselves open for Darvel to add a third.

“Their first goal was a shocker,” Carson told Barrhead Sport. “The referee had an absolute nightmare with that one.

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“The Darvel boy knocked it beyond our defender with his hand before going on to finish well.

“Everyone in the ground saw that, apart from the ref, which really knocked the stuffing out of us.

“We had set up well and were playing some good stuff at 1-0.

“They go up and take the lead two minutes after their equaliser as we were still raging from their first.

“The referee actually came up to myself and Chris [Cameron] at half-time and apologised to us for his mistake. He said his supervisor came in and told him it was a blatant handball and he had got it wrong. That only made it worse, to be honest, but we regrouped at half-time and created a few half chances.”

Carson added: “As the game went on and it was still 2-1, we started throwing caution to the wind and bodies forward, which allowed them to catch us on the break in the last couple of minutes.

“That makes the scoreline look a bit better for them than it should have been.

“Everyone knows the story with Darvel and their financial backing and improvement but we fully matched them over the piece. We never really got the rub of the green, and we could have come away with a point if it wasn’t for a bad call.”

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