KENDAL Town’s promotion hopes suffered a major blow this week as manager Lee Ashcroft began a three-month ban from football activity with the club.

Ashcroft was issued with the ban in January but the club appealed, only for an FA commission to uphold its initial decision on Friday.

It means that Ashcroft, who has managed Town for two and a half years, cannot be involved in Kendal Town’s matches or training until June.

An FA panel rejected the club’s appeal to reduce the ban, which was issued after Ashcroft was sent off for allegedly using abusive and/or indecently insulting words towards match officials in a game against Kings Lynn on October 3, 2009.

The three-month penalty has been deemed ‘excessive’, but an FA spokesman said it represented the detail and nature of the language used by Ashcroft, who joined the club in 2004 from Southport.

While the FA will not reveal the language used, they indicated this week the severity of the words and Ashcroft’s previous nature contributed to the sentence.

The spokesman added: “The Respect programme takes into account conduct towards officials and it is something we have been looking at a lot lately.”

He said the Respect programme aims to reduce foul language in the game and offer support to match officials.

The spokesman explained the ban, which runs between March 1 and June 1, rules Ashcroft out of football activity involving Kendal Town, from matches to training, and including administration of the club and scouting players.

Speaking of his ban, Ashcroft said: “I am still convinced I did nothing wrong. It is a horrendous ban but I have got to accept it.

“If you watch Match of the Day you see Alex Ferguson and other managers effing and blinding without bans but I will go away and think about what I am going to do now.

“I would just like to p-ut on record a big thank you to all the fans who have given me great support in this difficult time.

“But I will learn from this and become a better manager. I will turn this negative time in my career into a positive one for both myself and the football club.”

In the interim, assistant player/manager Ian Kilford will step in for Ashcroft, and will be assisted by striker Dave Foster, goalkeeping coach James Nichol and coach Michael O’Neill.

Club chairman David Willan says he is furious about the FA ruling but insists the club is still determined to win promotion.

“We have management people at the club who are capable to step in and take control and they are as experienced as Lee,” said Willan.

“He has been an excellent manager and it is his first management position. Lee has great contacts and has done a lot off the field for this club too.”

Willan added: “We are ambitious to play in the Conference North next season and hopefully we will welcome Lee back for that in June.”

With just eight weeks and 16 games to go, including a cup semi-final against Retford United next weekend, Kilford and his team have a tough task ahead.

Kilford said: “We will try to keep everything the same but I am looking forward to it. It is a challenge for each game but obviously it helps we have a good set of lads around.”

* Kendal Town will play their first home match under Ian Kilford on Tuesday night when Nantwich Town visit Parkside Road, kick off 7.45pm.