Shrewsbury Town manager Paul Hurst believes John-Joe O’Toole was the man responsible for sparking the brawl which led to both the Cobblers midfielder and visiting skipper Abu Ogogo seeing red during Tuesday’s fractious affair at Sixfields.
The game had been played at a frenetic pace throughout but there was little sign of what was to come on 64 minutes when an off-the-ball incident saw O’Toole and Ogogo wrestle one another to the ground, seemingly out of the blue.
All 22 players got involved thereafter and even once the two players had been shown red, they were still upset and had to be restrained by management staff in both dugouts when leaving the field.
Afterwards, Shrews boss Hurst said he would reserve judgement on the incident until he has seen better footage but his initial belief was that O’Toole instigated it.
“The first I heard of it was the fourth official saying ‘behind you, behind you’ to the referee and obviously he’s seen that two players are on the floor and both sets of players trying to get involved - some to make the situation worse, some to resolve the situation,” Hurst told the club website.
“I’ve had a look back from some wide angle footage and it’s hard to see exactly what happens. All I would say is that Abs is in the box waiting for a cross, O’Toole comes back from some distance and you can see that he makes contact with Abs.
“Then there’s some more contact and it seems as though he won’t let go of him and eventually there’s a reaction.
“I’m sure I will get some other footage to make a better call on it. It’s difficult to say too much and to have a real go at my own player because if someone won’t let go then eventually you are going to try and get them off you, but I will remain judgement entirely until I see some better footage.”
On the game itself, which saw Shay Facey’s first-half goal cancelled out by Jon Nolan’s fabulous volley, Hurst added: “I think we have to be realistic and to have won our last five away games and then get a point and remain unbeaten is not a bad thing,
“Obviously people are making a lot of the fact that we could have gone top with a victory against a team that are at the wrong end of the table, but I knew that they would have a reaction.
All I would say is that Abs is in the box waiting for a cross, O’Toole comes back from some distance and you can see that he makes contact with Abs.
“It was a very frantic game, not much time for either team on the ball, a good atmosphere and it was pretty breakneck speed for a lot of the game.
“I always thought we would have a spell on top and I think for quite a lot of the second-half we did that, but the goal just before half-time makes it difficult for us.”