"Really, great advert to avoid regional airports"
Just remember to stay out of ANY water because two people were recently killed by sharks.
It is true that many smaller airports don't have ground radar, but you'd be mortified at how often the ground radar malfunctions, is in op or isn't set up to detect certain things that aren't specifically on the runways or taxiways. There is an incident where a cargo pilot flying a heavy turned off a runway and missed any taxiway, and got stuck in the grass/mud/snow. He didn't tell ground where he was but said he was off the runway(to be correct, only the front part of the plane was off!). The tower continued to clear a/c for takeoff(it was foggy or snowing, I don't recall). When an airport vehicle went out to check on the planes location, they closed the airport, a major airport. When the visibility finally improved, and controllers actually saw where he was, they realized how fortunate/lucky all had been. This airport HAS ground radar, but the parameters are set up so that it looks for traffic on the concrete, not in the grass.
The controller in the incident you mention was expecting the pilot to be in a certain spot and she was expecting to hear a certain thing. When neither of these occurred, she didn't allow the new info to become fact, she still considered the factual info wrong. Controllers and pilots both do this. It isn't good practise! When most people from the outside listen to controllers/pilots, they are amazed that either can understand the other. We explain that we are always listening for certain pieces of information, the rest is fluff. Problems enter when a pilot is expecting to hear one thing, say climb and maintain FL230, the requested altitude, but what was said was climb and maintain FL210. The controller is expecting to hear a readback of FL230 and doesn't catch the FL210. As the plane climbs through FL214, there becomes a problem! The controller will get pinched because he didn't catch the readback error, the pilot will get nothing.
Remember, part of the controller's mantra is that we are required to be right, all the time... 99.9% right isn't good enough if you're in a plane during the .1%.