NEWCASTLE Jets defender Jason Hoffman insists the incident that earned him a red card in Saturday’s 1-0 loss to Sydney FC at Kogarah Oval was accidental.
Hoffman was sent off in the 73rd minute after a challenge involving Sydney midfielder Brandon O’Neill.
The pair clashed in a tackle that left Hoffman on the ground and clutching his leg, having apparently been trodded on by O’Neill.
As the 29-year-old swung around to stand up, his feet clipped O’Neill and at least two Sydney players, including skipper Alex Brosque, protested to referee Adam Fielding.
Fielding had no hesitation in ordering Hoffman off.
A shattered Hoffman told the Newcastle Herald after the game he felt it was a “very harsh” decision.
“Our legs were in a bit of a tangle but I didn’t maliciously kick out at him,” Hoffman said.
“Obviously at 1-0 down, that would be the most stupid thing to do ever, especially as we were starting to build a bit of pressure.
“I thought it was a very harsh call. I didn’t kick out at him, and Brandon O’Neill said he didn’t even feel anything.
“For me, it’s extremely disappointing.”
Hoffman added “it’s not in my character” to resort to kicking an opponent in retaliation.
Jets chief executive Lawrie McKinna said the club would explore whatever options were available to help Hoffman avoid suspension, but the initial feedback from Football Federation Australia was that a ban would be likely because there had been no “obvious error” from the match officials.
McKinna said he felt the referee should have made a “common-sense decision” in dealing with the incident.
“Jason definitely got stood on, although it wasn’t deliberate,” McKinna said.
“And from what I’ve heard, Brandon O’Neill said he wasn’t hurt, he didn’t feel anything, and was surprised that Jason was sent off.”
McKinna was optimistic that if Hoffman was suspended, it would only be a mandatory one match.
But if he is charged by the match-review panel on Monday with “assault of a player” (violent conduct when not challenging for the ball), the sanction could be a two-match suspension.
Brisbane skipper Matt Mckay, for example, served two games last January after being sent off for lashing out at Adelaide’s Nikola Mileusnic.
At the very least, Hoffman will miss Wednesday’s crucial clash with Central Coast Mariners at McDonald Jones Stadium.
He will become the third Newcastle player in as many weeks to spend an enforced game on the sidelines, following one-game suspensions to Ronny Vargas and Daniel Georgievski.
Adding to Hoffman’s concern, he has incurred four yellow cards this season, as has skipper Nigel Boogaard. Both players will serve mandatory one-game bans if they are booked again in Newcastle’s remaining 13 games.