ANDY HESSENTHALER, the Dover Athletic manager, admitted he was ready to take his players off as they were the subject of racist abuse at Hartlepool United.

After striker Inih Effiong smashed home a first-half penalty, the Dover players celebrated in front of the Town End.

It is understood that then that a number of racist insults and actions were hurled in their direction.

Players from both sides reacted, with Pools midfielder Gus Mafuta trying to get point out one individual behind the goal.

Visiting attacker Ricky Modeste was particularly animated in front of the supporters as players gathered and reacted.

Hessenthaler said: “It’s a sad day for football.

“At half-time we were calm. I spoke to Craig and at one stage I wanted to come off the pitch – and Craig agreed with me.

“He was saying the same, we backed each other up, but the players wanted to carry on and credit to them.

“It’s a tough one for the referee – how tough for him. A crazy day all around. I’ve not been lucky here in recent years, but I’ll take that one.

“They wanted to carry on. We spoke and their players wanted to carry on too. I didn’t like what was going on, I felt it in my stomach.

“I said 'look, if you want to come off, lets come off', but they wanted to carry on – although we were winning 1-0 at the time.’’

Dover grabbed a second goal in the closing stages, after Pools had numerous chances to score – three times they had shots cleared off the line and Gime Toure struck the frame of the goal.

Referee Joseph Johnson had a terrible game and was roundly abused throughout. At one stage, an individual left the terrace on the Neale Cooper Stand to try and get at the official.

Johnson sent off Ryan Donaldson for speaking out after the penalty was rejected, while manager Craig Hignett soon followed him from the dug out. Nicky Featherstone was then red-carded after the second goal for speaking out of turn to the hapless official.

Hessenthaler added: “It’s a sad day for football. I don’t want to talk about anything else.

“We came away to a good team, an intimidating crowd and credit to my players - let’s just talk about the performance.

“It was hard to keep our cool in the second half to a man. You have to come away and work hard.

“It’s hard to manage in these situations – there’s a lot going on, not only from my players but Hartlepool’s as well.

“It’s a sad day, you have to cut that out.

“It’s hard for me and Craig and he lost his way in the end as well, but he cares and wants to win games as well.

“It’s a crazy day but we go home with a win.

“I’ve never seen scenes like this in my career. I’m 54 now and been involved in the game a long time, playing and managing and it’s new to me.’’

Pools boss Craig Hignett added: "If we find out anything happened then they will be dealt with – we will deal with it strong. We are a very inclusive club and we deal with it if we have to.

“I asked Gus (Mafuta) if he was OK and he assured me he was and that was that really.

“I said to Andy ‘If that’s what you feel then I’m behind you’ and he wanted to get on with the game.

“If that’s proved we will deal with it in the strongest possible way we can, we have to identify everyone involved and if it’s proved then we have to sort them out.

“This club isn’t like that. We are an inclusive club. We have black players. We have a black owner. We are a good family club and if anyone has darkened our club they will be dealt with.’’