The Accies produced an incredible turnaround at the ZLX Stadium on Saturday against Alloa Athletic in the semi-final second-leg. Trailing 1-0 from the first, they lost two goals in the first 32 minutes but then netted four times before half-time and Andy Winter completed his hat-trick after the interval to complete the comeback and earn John Rankin’s side a 5-3 win on aggregate.
The fixture was marred somewhat by abuse directed at the Accies manager, while fans also turned on the club’s hierarchy for the way the club is being run. Rankin revealed afterwards that there was a comment which “was derogatory towards my wife and children”. He said: "I’m not accepting that. I don’t care who it is or what they do, that’s embarrassing.”
Maitland addressed issues, including for a an alleged “hate crime”, within a statement which started: “Just when you think you’ve seen everything in football, something totally out of the blue occurs to disprove that theory and I think it’s fair to say that’s what happened in that first half on Saturday”.
‘Vile abusive comments’
“In my role as the chairman of the club, I feel the highs and lows of all Accies supporters and fully understand the frustrations of the last few seasons when we haven’t reached the standards expected from our club," he said. “I also understand the need on occasions to vent that frustration – however there is a line where the expression of that frustration becomes intolerable and totally unacceptable, and we reached that on Saturday afternoon. Several supporters shouted vile abusive comments to our management team and directors that were disgusting and unacceptable in any environment at any time, never mind a football match where families and young kids are present. We are working to identify those responsible for this hate crime and these so-called supporters will receive the banning order they deserve from all football matches.
“I have consistently tried to engage with unhappy supporters, even in difficult times, to listen to their concerns and provide a balanced and fair view whenever possible but there is now a section of fans who are no longer worthy of any exchange of views. We all feel the passion of being a supporter and have experienced days when you understandably express your frustrations or disappointment towards players, management, and directors when things are going horribly wrong but there must be a control mechanism in place to stop that from crossing the line of acceptability. If you personally are unable to control that emotion or feel the need to be overtly abusive, then please don’t come to the games – you’re not welcome.”
He added: “In what has been a really difficult season, the players deserve enormous credit for their efforts on Saturday to turn a seemingly impossible position round when there were chaotic scenes in the stand, and I ask that you give them your full support over the next two matches. Airdrie have been in superb form and after their emphatic victory over Falkirk will rightly come into the play off as favourites. We are a club renowned for succeeding in times of adversity and If we hope to succeed and retain our position in the Championship, we need everyone pulling in the same direction. I ask that all supporters give the players their full backing – as Saturday showed, anything can happen in a game of football.”