HEAD coach Gary Thornton blasted the performance of referee Peter Brook after watching his York City Knights side blow the chance to go back to the top of Championship One – but he did not blame the officials for defeat.

Thornton headed straight for man-in-the-middle Brook at the end of the Knights’ 24-22 reverse at Gloucestershire All Golds after the Mancunian sent off Austin Bell with half an hour to go and, right at the death, awarded York a penalty with which to equalise only to change his mind and give the decision to the hosts.

Two points for a draw would have taken the 12-man Knights back to the summit as leaders Hunslet were not in action while Oldham, level on points with York, were losing at Hemel. Instead they ended with only a bonus point, having led 16-0 inside the first quarter.

Asked about Brook’s last-minute decision, Thornton said: “It’s a mystery to me.

“I hope he watches the DVD because I thought he was a disgrace.

“If it wasn’t a stonewall penalty I don’t know what is.

“But we didn’t lose because of the poor referee. We have to look at ourselves.”

Of the sending-off, he said: “It was a strange one. I’d like to know the referee’s view. Austin went in swinging but he did not start the incident. It was started by their guy (Jack Francis) – they were the first to swing. The initial penalty was against them – had he not done that there would not have been any comeback from my players.

“It (the red card) did turn the game against a very enthusiastic team.

“But I’m disappointed with my boys’ attitude. To go 16 up looking comfortable and then blow it is unacceptable."

He added: “I’m massively disappointed. At 16-0 up we sat back and thought the game was won.

“We started terrifically well. We got the journey out of our legs quickly and the things we’d worked on in training worked well.

“But we pressed the self-destruct button and from there it was a nightmare.

“The boys are complaining about the referee but I said to them we lost not because of what the referee did but because of what we did.

“We showed in that first 20 how clinical we can be and how well we can execute plays, but in that last 60 we showed how poor we can be.

“I think the boys expected Gloucestershire to fold but you can’t expect that of anyone in this division. They kept coming and coming.

“Beating Hunslet 40-0 (last time out) and then performing like that for 60 minutes – I can’t get my head around it.”

The All Golds have now taken ten points from a possible 12 since Scotland boss Steve McCormack took charge.

Asked about the refereeing performance, McCormack said: “There is no way anyone can take anything away from the All Golds. It was a good performance by a hard-working team.

“The sending-off was a contributing factor but we had to dig in to win that. It would be disappointing if anybody instead looked at the referee.

“I think York are the best team in the division and that for us was a big win.”