Colchester United manager John Ward admitted referee Darren Sheldrake made a “major mistake” in controversially ruling out Steven Gillespie's strike at Charlton Athletic tonight.

The U's were left furious after the Surrey-based official bizarrely disallowed Gillespie's 64th minute effort, in their 1-0 defeat at the Valley.

Gillespie slotted home from 12 yards after David Mooney had dummied Matt Heath's pass, midway through the second half.

Much to the U's horror though, Sheldrake inexplicably ruled out the effort for an infringement.

He then to allow the goal to stand, following a brief discussion with his assistant.

The game was about to kick off again but Charlton's protestations continued.

And after the fourth official intervened, Sheldrake incredibly ruled the 'goal' out again.

Bradley Wright-Phillips then went on to net Charlton's winner, with 12 minutes to go.

Ward said: “I have been doing this as a player, manager, coach and a supporter for 40 years and I've never seen that situation happen before.

“The referee made a major mistake in the game and I think he knows that he did.

“Prior to Steven (Gillespie) putting the ball into the net, the referee anticipated a flag from his linesman and blew his whistle.

“Steven put the ball in the back of the net and it all went off again, as you can imagine.

“In the end the referee got the decision right, because he blew the whistle before the ball went into the net.

“He had no reason to blow the whistle in the first place, because there was nothing incorrect with Steven Gillespie's position.

“He was not offside and I don't believe Charlton stopped playing.

“I believe the fourth official then got up off his chair and told the referee that he got it wrong, after he had given the goal after chatting to his linesman.”

For more on this story and a full match report and pictures from the U's game at Charlton Athletic, see Wednesday's Gazette.