GRAYS Athletic captain Jamie Stuart has admitted breaking an opponent's jaw during a match but insisted it was an accident.

Stuart, 31, said York City striker Chris Beardsley grabbed hold of his shirt during the league match at Grays' New Recreation Ground in Bridge Road, and as tried to free himself he hit Mr Beardsley in the jaw.

Stuart, who was signed by Charlton at the age of 17, played for England under 21s and clubs including Millwall and Southend, said: "I was being held firmly on my shoulder and swung my arm back and moved forward a few feet. I was not looking at Chris Beardsley at the time.

"I intended to make contact with his arm to release myself from his hold. I did not intend to make contact with his jaw or to cause him injury."

The defender said there was no ill feeling towards the two teams and he had no hostility towards Mr Beardsley, 24, during the match on September 22 last year.

And it was only after he saw the referee blow his whistle that he turned around and realised Mr Beardsley was lying injured on the floor.

Stuart said: "At first I thought Mr Beardsley was faking it but then I saw the blood. I said to the linesman that it was an accident."

As a DVD recording of the match was played at Basildon Crown Court today the defendant accepted he could be seen remonstrating with the referee who sent him off but said he did so because he was trying to explain what had happened.

Stuart, who is still playing for Grays and appeared for them in a Blue Square Premier match at Crawley last night, said: "He said he was sending me off. I argued that it was an accident but he would not listen."

The father of two, who has been playing professional football since the age of 15, also denied Beardsley's claims that shortly before the incident he had struck him across the shoulders, stood on his feet or kicked him in his Achilles heel.

He added: "When you compete for the ball sometimes both players are in jumping in the air to get the ball and there is contact. You cannot avoid that. It is football but nothing like what he said happened."

Stuart, of Knole Gate, Sidcup, denies one count of causing Mr Beardsley grievous bodily harm.

The trial continues.