DOUG SHEPPARD says he is standing by Ryan Watt after the forward was slapped with a season-ending 21-match ban.
The Scot, 29, was caught up in the furore following Bracknell Bees’ cup semi-final defeat against Peterborough Phantoms last month, punished for “fighting” and “physically engaging with a spectator”.
The forward has since released a statement giving his take on the event, adding he cannot afford the fee to appeal the ban.
“I fully accept my ban for my on-ice actions,” said Watt.
“It’s a part of the game and the way I play. I’m okay with that.
“I maybe over stepped the mark, but when a player on the visiting team mocks and laughs in your club captain’s face and points at the scoreboard in the last two seconds of a cup semi-final, there is absolutely no chance in hell that the sheer disrespect shown towards him and our team would be treated lightly.
“I’ve had my fair share senior career fights, I’ve never once continued to hit someone once the player has hit the ice. What happened in this game was admittedly out of character for me.”
He added: “As I was leaving the ice, a Phantoms fan came into a ‘player and official only zone’. I saw him approaching me and turned towards him.
“When I turned towards him, we shared a few heated words and he then physically assaulted me by pushing me in the face. I put my hand up to protect myself and I had a split decision to make – I either do some serious physical damage or defend myself.
“I put my hand up and pulled his glasses off in self-defence and then carried on my way to the dressing room.
“Bearing in mind he approached me and instigated the incident does anyone really think I deserve 10 games for “engaging a fan”?
“I think there is a serious case of injustice here.
“I want to clear my name here when it comes to this “altercation” with the fan. I am now being punished for something that I did not do while this individual gets off Scot free.”
Watt was not the only one banned following the Peterborough clash.
Brendan Baird, Joe Baird and Ben Paynter have also been serving suspensions but it was Watt’s lengthy ban which raised the most eyebrows.
“I think it was quite obvious that the frustration was there when we did get eliminated,” head coach Sheppard told The Wokingham Paper.
“Emotions were certainly running high and we need to do a better job controlling our emotions. I understand we were frustrated and unfortunately that’s what can happen.
“I think 21 games was quite a bit. Ryan certainly got hit hard and we’re sticking by our players and he’s going to remain with us as part of the team.
“He’s going to serve hopefully a good 10-12 games of his suspension (this season).
“It was very unfortunate that the fan was able to get face to face with him. I suppose you can’t let a fan sucker you in.
“It was something that you never want to see, especially in a game with that much on the line.”