The referee, Andy Woolmer, had to be protected from an angry Hereford United fan wearing a jester's hat as he walked off the Edgar Street pitch yesterday after making the controversial decisions that contributed to Aldershot's triumph in this play-off semi-final.
A burly steward came to the rescue of the official, who had sent off Hereford's defender Andy Tretton and refused the hosts' two penalty claims for handball.
Even Aldershot's manager, Terry Brown, considered the 20th-minute dismissal a harsh one. "I would have been screaming and shouting if that had happened to one of my players,'' he said. "Hereford were the best footballing side in the Conference, and I offer them my most sincere condolences, if that is not going over the top.''
Graham Turner, Hereford's manager, was rather more explicit when it came to criticising the official's performance. "The referee had an absolute nightmare," he said. "You just want referees who are competent.''
Following Tretton's expulsion, after he had been contentiously considered by Mr Woolmer to have been the last defender when he tugged back Aaron McLean, Hereford's 10 men not only offered stubborn resistance but created two glorious chances that went begging.
Michael Rose, impressive in midfield, was involved in both the moves down the left, which ended with Danny Williams stabbing his close-range header wide of the same post that Steve Guinan missed later.
Aldershot, the only part-timers in the play-offs, enjoyed the greater share of possession, with the veteran central defender Ray Warburton going close at several set pieces. Ultimately his misses did not really matter, as Aldershot took the initiative in the penalty shoot-out after Roscoe D'Sane's first effort had rebounded off the crossbar. They never lost it.
Hereford United (3-4-1-2): Baker; Tretton, James, Smith; Green, Hitman, Rose, Travis (Betts, 80); Williams (Cozic, 108); Brown, Guinan (Beesley, 72). Substitutes not used: Carey-Bertram, Mackenzie (gk)
Aldershot (3-5-2): Ball; Giles, Warburton, Sterling; Downer (Chewins, 60), Gosling, Antwi, Challinor, Charles (D'Sane, 69); McLean (Nutter, 85), Sills. Substitutes not used: Barnard (gk), Johnson.
Referee: A Woolmer (Northamptonshire).