|Oliver returns for Reading clash|
Tue 30th Oct 2012 23:19 by Clive Whittingham
The Premier League’s youngest referee returns to Loftus Road this weekend for the first time since last season’s controversial home draw with Aston Villa.
Referee >>> Michael Oliver (Northumberland) promising young referee and son of former Football League official Clive Oliver. Made an absolute pig's ear of QPR v Aston Villa last season.
Assistants >>> Darren England and Simon Long – Long was one of the assistants to Mark Clattenburg in the Chelsea v Man Utd controversy at the weekend.
Fourth Official >>> Martin Atkinson (West Yorkshire), failed to award a QPR goal at Bolton last season despite the ball flying four feet over the line.
Faurlin also hit a shot straight at David Martin in the Dons goal from a free kick a moment later but the big moment of the half came within seconds at the other end in front of an astonishing QPR following of more than 5,000 fans. Daniel Powell, a product of the Dons’ academy and the one player who seemed overawed by this occasion, took a wild fresh air shot at a presentable chance deep within the QPR area. He recovered his composure enough to try and cut the ball back into the goal mouth from the byline butClint Hill intervened, sliding in with his hands above his head to palm the ball behind. Referee Michael Oliver looked to his linesman who had a perfect view of the incident but awarded a corner. Hill didn’t even look like he was convincing himself by pointing to his face, this was a nailed on penalty kick.
Had DJ Campbell’s goal stood two minutes later the Dons would have fumed, but thankfully for Karl Robinson’s men the assistant referee at the far end of the ground was more up to speed with the game and had long since flagged the former Blackpool man offside. Adam Smith responded with a marauding run from right back and shot straight at Radek Cerny. The Czech keeper had to be rather more alert five minutes before half time when Smith’s cross looked set to dip under the bar – he intelligently flicked the ball away from the goal and the danger area with his finger tips.
Quite how a replay, and subsequent possible fourth round tie with Chelsea, was achieved I have next to no idea. A minute from time another long punt down field was, to his eternal credit, chased down by Heidar Helguson. Looking yards offside the Icelandic target man clashed with goalkeeper David Martin who spilled the ball and appeared to fell Helguson in the penalty area. All eyes switched to referee Michael Oliver, who’d awarded Aston Villa a nonsense spot kick at Loftus Road in the Premiership earlier in the season. All eyes, that is, except Helguson’s – he calmly regained his feet and composure and rolled the ball into the empty net.
MK Dons: Martin 6, Smith 7, Williams 6, MacKenzie 6 (Doumbe 46, 6), Lewington 8, Chadwick 7, Gleeson 6, Potter 6, Bowditch 7, Ibehre 7, Daniel Powell 5
Subs Not Used: McLoughlin, Flanagan, O'Shea, Lobjoit, Alli, Collins
Goals: Bowditch 65 (unassisted)
QPR: Cerny 6, Young 6, Gabbidon 5, Hall 5, Hill 5, Mackie 4, Derry 4 (Buzsaky 77, 5), Faurlin 5, Smith 6, Macheda 6 (Bothroyd 71, 5), Campbell 4 (Helguson 61, 6)
Subs Not Used: Murphy, Connolly, Andrade, Orr
Goals: Helguson 89 (unassisted)
Referee: Michael Oliver (Northumberland) 7 A perfectly fine refereeing performance throughout with few errors or points of interest. However marks have to be knocked off because, for the second time in as many QPR games, he got a big penalty appeal absolutely wrong. Clint Hill’s handball in the first half was a clear spot kick that, with no assistance from the linesman, he didn’t award. Fine apart from that but referees live and die on their big decisions.
Which brings me onto the people in charge of appointing our referees each week, who also got exactly what they deserved here. So far this season, and without wishing to get all high and mighty with you this was pointed out in the match preview, Michael Oliver has, for one reason or another, found himself almost constantly immersed in one controversial penalty decision after another. He’s given penalties that almost certainly weren’t and turned down those that definitely were. He turned West Ham v Leeds in the Championship into a farce and was rewarded for that with an appointment to referee Aston Villa at Everton where he again made a horrendous error over another penalty decision – not awarding a spot kick to Leighton Baines who was obviously hacked down but told to get to his feet. To repeat the same action and expect a different result is the definition of insanity – again they appointed him to a big match, again there were big decisions to make in both penalty areas, again he got them wrong.
Taarabt was at the heart of everything QPR did early in the game. He was the first of several home players to try his luck with a free kick on the edge of the Villa penalty area when Petrov was pulled up by the referee for a foul on Luke Young as Villa cleared a QPR corner. The Moroccan’s shot hit the wall and flew out of play for a corner that Taarabt then played short and wasted. Villa are a big side, and it’s understandable that QPR were therefore reluctant to sling over crosses from wide set pieces, but the quality of dead balls all afternoon from the Hoops was abject and must be worked on an improved.
The half began with two more refereeing decisions – first Hutton was booked for a hack on Shaun Wright Phillips after he’d been done for pace, and then Ferdinand was treated to a free kick as Agbonlahor ran clear on goal after nudging the defender in the back. But soon it was all eyes on Villa and Paddy Kenny had to be alert and strong in his six yard box when Bannan’s wild volley was deflected up into the goal mouth by Agbonlahor. Both Ferdinand and Fitz Hall seemed to be struggling with injury at this point and Villa looked to take advantage as first Kenny had to claim a ball low at Agbonlahor’s feet when the rest of his team mates seemed to have stopped and given it up, then the keeper rushed from his line and clattered into Fabian Delph whose lobbed effort drifted wide of the open net as a result.
And then, just before the hour, the first big controversial incident of the game. Villa were on top, no question, and when Luke Young was sucked out of the right back spot and Villa worked the ball into the space he’d vacated QPR had a real problem. That danger seemed to have been alleviated when N’Zogbia crossed far too deep for Agbonlahor rushing in at the back post but as the ball drifted away to safety the shrill blast of the referee’s whistle pierced through the Loftus Road atmosphere. He’d given a penalty.
It took a while for everybody realise that’s what Michael Oliver had done – given that it wasn’t a penalty, none of the Villa fans behind the goal appealed for a penalty and only one or two of the Villa players even put half a hand in the air to ask the question that’s understandable – but a penalty had been given all the same. Barry Bannan, Villa’s best player by a distance, scraped his kick into the bottom corner with Kenny heading in the right direction but not there quickly enough. It should also be said, as it becomes important later, that Traore was booked in amongst this nonsense.
But what exactly was he booked for? Hauling Agbonlahor back (he didn’t) to prevent him meeting a cross at the back post and giving Villa the lead (he wouldn’t have done)? Is this not denying a goal scoring opportunity? If you’re going to be a pedantic arsehole and give a penalty for something that, were it penalised every time would see games finishing with Rugby League scores, then you have to send the player off. It was a piece of officiating to be ashamed of. It was a pathetic decision. Pathetic, embarrassing, shambolic, farcical and absolutely bang wrong.
It’s a decision made by somebody who has been to all of his little meetings and sat in front of all his little video tapes and seen all this shirt pulling going on in the penalty area and decided that he’s going to make an example of somebody. And so he has lain in wait, like some half aroused lion ready to leap on an unsuspecting victim and then feast on their violated flesh, desperate to penalise somebody for a shirt pull in the penalty box. This is a referee who two weeks ago at Everton didn’t see Aston Villa blatantly hack down Leighton Baines in the penalty box and yet here is giving a spot kick for the most meagre of fouls, if indeed there was a foul at all which I’m not convinced there was. He is a referee who is over thinking and analysing every big decision rather than just giving what he sees – he’ll give a pathetic penalty like that to make an example of somebody, but then he won’t give a blatant one because it’s too blatant, and he won’t give you a controversial decision if you’ve had one against you because it might be seen as him evening it up. Shambolic.
The sense of injustice only would have festered had N’Zogbia found the back, rather than the side, of the net when Villa came flooding forward again a moment later.
And then Villa stopped attacking. Almost as quickly as their onslaught had begun it ended and never recommenced. They had shown that, on the attack, they could cause QPR a world of problems but like some old fish wife calling the kids in off the street at dusk McLeish’s had ordered them back into the deep lying defensive set up they’d occupied previously. Had they kept going they’d have won 2-0 at least, now it became a question of whether QPR could score given the paucity of home goals on this ground this season so far.
The final half an hour would be a mixture of increasingly desperate QPR attacks and awful refereeing. After the hour James Collins hacked Shaun Wright Phillips down on the edge of the area for an obvious free kick and yellow card. That seemed to be what Oliver was about to do but having awarded the free kick and reached for a card he was then confronted by Richard Dunne who spoke to him for ten seconds and the card went back in his pocket. “Book him and I’ll release those pictures of you on Chatroulette ref”, said Dunne. Possibly.
And this pattern continued. With 20 minutes left to play Petrov executed a wild tackle on Shaun Wright Phillips in the Villa right back slot. The Hungarian, as he always does, then screamed in the face of the referee to presumably try and intimidate him into reducing the planned punishment. On this occasion he was shown a yellow card but the real controversy was only a second or two away.
When Given palmed the resulting Barton free kick behind for a corner it set up an incident where Alan Hutton blatantly saved a goal bound header from Ferdinand away from both the goal and Bothroyd loitering for a tap in with his arm. You could never wish to see a more obvious handball and penalty and yet referee Oliver and his hapless assistant gave nothing. It was a penalty all day, all night, all week long. I was embarrassed for the officials on that one, a blind bank vole would have seen it.
Neil Warnock sent on Tommy Smith for Shaun Wright Phillips and then watched in anger as the new man produced a cross that seemed to be patted down by Hutton’s hand in the penalty area right under the nose of the referee but no spot kick was awarded. On that occasion I thought the referee was right.
When the game moved into stoppage time and Armand Traore was sent off, for a needless lunge on Marc Albrighton that clearly warranted a yellow card at least, the writing seemed to be on the wall. Warnock lambasted Traore as he went off, but they both knew his first yellow card had been a joke and Villa should already have had two off if the rules had been applied equally to both sides.
Anton Ferdinand had to be dragged away from the referee by his manager at full time – had the game been officiated properly then QPR would have won 2-0 and few could have complained had that been the score.
QPR: Kenny 7, Young 7, Ferdinand 8, Hall 7, Traore 6, Faurlin 6, Derry 6 (Helguson 79, 7), Wright-Phillips 7 (Smith 86, -), Taarabt 7, Barton 6, Bothroyd 7 (Campbell 66, 6)
Subs Not Used: Murphy, Orr, Buzsaky, Connolly
Sent Off: Traore 90 (two bookings)
Booked: Traore (foul), Traore (foul)
Goals: Dunne 90 og (assisted Helguson)
Aston Villa: Given 7, Hutton 5, Collins 7, Dunne 8, Warnock 6, Petrov 6, Ireland 5, Delph 7, N'Zogbia 6 (Weimann 85, -), Bannan 8 (Albrighton 72, 7), Agbonlahor 6
Subs Not Used: Guzan, Delfouneso, Beye, Lowry, Gardner
Booked: Warnock (foul), Hutton (foul), Collins (foul), Petrov (foul), Agbonlahor (foul), N'Zogbia (foul)
Goals: Bannan 58 (penalty)
Referee: Michael Oliver (Northumberland) 3 The thing about a penalty decision is it’s either a penalty or it’s not a penalty. This means that even if you had to decide what it was without seeing the incident you stand a fifty fifty chance of getting it right. In the West Ham v Leeds game, the Everton v Villa match and then again today Michael Oliver has had at least seven penalty incidents to adjudicate on, and he’s yet to get one right. I mean even if the kid tossed a coin on these, heads a penalty tails play on, he’d get more right than he’s currently managing. Without going into why so many Villa players on yellow cards were allowed to get away with crude tackles without receiving a second yellow there were three key incidents in the game – and he was badly wrong with two of his three calls. Not good enough.
Wigan struggled in the league last year and ultimately survived only by the skin of their teeth on the final day of the campaign. That said they continue to unearth some seriously talented players from all four corners of the globe and QPR were tormented here by one from El Carmelo ( Columbia ) and another from South Norwood (Croydon). The former, Hugo Rodallega, threatened first with a jinking run across the face of the penalty area that ended with a generous free kick decision from referee Michael Oliver who did little to endear himself to the travelling faithful early on in this game. The resulting free kick from Spaniard Jordi Gomez flew high enough for Paddy Kenny to confidently pay it little attention but still close enough to skim the roof of the net as it disappeared out of play.
Two moments of action to report just after the half hour; one surprising, the other less so. Firstly Michael Oliver got his yellow card out for the first time in the game, but it wasn’t a QPR player on the receiving end. Adrian Lopez was the man punished for a cynical shirt pull on Adel Taarabt as the Moroccan skipped away him in the Wigan half. Secondly, Fitz Hall got injured again. The stomach acid is rising again I’m afraid but as mummy’s brave soldier battled on for another half hour or so I’ll save my second rant of the report for later.
Hall had treatment for whatever the hell was wrong with him this time and returned to the action but having a centre half pathetically limping around, signalling to the bench when he should have been concentrating on the game, and apparently unable to move up the field with the rest of the defence gave the QPR team a ragged feel and Wigan took full advantage.
Within a minute of play resuming Moses found space in the area and cracked a low shot that Kenny gathered safely but would have struggled with had Rodallega touched it en route – he was prevented from doing so by Perone who seemed to give him a fair old shove past the ball. Rodallega didn’t complain and the referee showed no interest so presumably it was legal enough.
Warnock removed Tommy Smith, steady but not threatening enough, for young Bruno Andrade with ten minutes to go and he looked lively. Andrade quickly took his full back to the byline and delivered an excellent, dangerous cross through the area where sadly no QPR attackers had thought to move in for a tap in. That came after Shaun Derry had charged into the area and had the ball flicked off his toe by Al Habsi and out for a corner which referee Michael Oliver did very well to give under heavy appeals for a penalty which it definitely wasn’t.
Wigan: Al Habsi 8, Boyce 6, Caldwell 6, Lopez 6, Figueroa 6, Diame 8, Watson 7, Moses 7 (McArthur 69, 6), Rodallega 8, Gomez 7 (Stam 85, -), Di Santo 6 (Sammon 69, 6)
Subs Not Used: Kirkland , McCarthy, Thomas, Jones
Booked: Lopez (foul), Caldwell (foul)
Goals: Di Santo 41 (unassisted), 66 (unassisted)
QPR: Kenny 7, Gabbidon 7, Hall 5 (Harriman 61, 7), Perone 6, Connolly 6, Faurlin 6, Derry 6, Taarabt 7, Buzsaky 6 (Bothroyd 72, 7), Smith 6 (Andrade 80, -), Agyemang 4
Subs Not Used: Murphy, Helguson, Ephraim, Hewitt
Referee: Michael Oliver (Northumberland) 6 I thought we were in for a bloody long afternoon in the first 15 minutes when a series of questionable decisions went against us but he grew into the game in the final hour and did reasonably overall. Further marks off for failure to play obvious advantages on several occasions but credit for getting the late Derry penalty appeal right when another referee in his position may hav given a spot kick, a goal kick or a dive when it was corner.
Frustration for Taarabt, and the rest of the QPR team, grew when his corner was only partially cleared by Cardiff but as the ball dropped on the far side of the area and the attack recommenced play was stopped by referee Michael Oliver because Stephen McPhail was down on the edge of the box clutching his head. Of course as soon as the play was stopped, and the attack ended, McPhail leapt up and there was nothing wrong with him – he even had the nerve to have a go at the referee for allowing the physio on meaning he had to leave the field for three and a half seconds while Cardiff returned the ball to QPR some 100 yards away down the field. Taarabt was justifiably booked for diving in the second half, this piece of cheating, quickly creeping into the game at all levels, was equally worthy of a yellow card.
Five minutes into the second half it was Cardiff who almost broke the deadlock when Radek Cernymade a worrying return to the form that saw him dropped from the side and replaced by Carl Ikeme just after Christmas. A foul by Ramage on Bothryod as the striker threatened to run through on goal drew a deserved yellow card and set up a free kick 30 yards from goal left of centre. A routine strike from Ross McCormack flew over the wall but seemed to be posing the keeper few problems as it bounced on the edge of the six yard box.
Taarabt’s curate’s egg of an afternoon continued when he tricked two Cardiff players on his way into the area before collapsing theatrically, farcically, under meagre contact from Darcy Blake. It was the most clear and obvious yellow card referee Michael Oliver will ever hand out, although credit to the referee for not being influenced by the crowd in the most partisan corner of Loftus Road.
QPR: Cerny 6, Leigertwood 6, Ramage 7, Gorkss 6, Tosic 6, Ephraim 5 (Parker 84, -), Buzsaky 6, Faurlin 6, Taarabt 8, Priskin 5 (German 90, -), Simpson 6 (Cook 83, -)
Subs Not Used: Putnins, Vine, Hill, Oastler
Booked: Ramage (foul), Taarabt (diving)
Cardiff: Marshall 7, McNaughton 6, Blake 6, Gerrard 6, Kennedy 7, Whittingham 7, McPhail 6, Ledley 7, Burke 6 (Etuhu 67, 6),McCormack 6 (Chopra 63, 5), Bothroyd 6
Subs Not Used: Enckelman, Gyepes, Capaldi, Matthews, Wildig
Goals: Ledley 80 (assisted Kennedy)
Referee: Michael Oliver (Northumberland) 7 Pretty good overall. Couldn’t argue with the bookings, although I would suggest he was a little quick with his whistle sometimes. Several times free kicks were awarded, and on a couple of occasions subsequently brought back for a moving ball or because they were taken from the wrong place, when the players seemed quite happy to play on with an advantage in the first place. He also stopped the game with QPR on the attack in the penalty area in the first half for a head injury that turned out to be nothing at all, in fact the Cardiff player was angry that he had to go off for treatment – although I felt there was plenty of kidology from McPhail on that occasion. Very promising performance from a young referee though, look forward to seeing him again.
They looked pretty nervous about the whole situation right from the off although could well have caught us out and taken the lead in the seventh minute from a set piece. A long ball forward was aimed at Parkin and, obviously keen to assert is authority against a much larger in every sense of the word, opponent, Matt Connolly climbed over his back to win a header. It could have been a free kick to Rangers for backing in, or one to Preston for climbing, and our young referee Michael Oliver went for the latter. All attention was drawn to Parkin, Neil Mellor, Sean St Ledger and the other aerial threats in the penalty area but Preston instead knocked a long ball across to the far side of the penalty area where Billy Jones had come forward from the back unchecked and was able to meet the free kick completely unmarked at the back post and head it back across goal. Rangers, clearly surprised, muscled up and bundled it behind for a corner from which Parkin was penalised for too much physical contact on Radek Cerny.QPR’s strong running and intricate passing in attack brought two quickfire bookings for the home side just before the half hour. First Rowan Vine was crudely chopped down by Billy Jones and then Wayne Routledge cynically hauled back by Sean St Ledger as he thrust towards the penalty area. Both were just about the most obvious bookings you could ever hope to see but that didn’t stop the home crowd venting their fury at the match officials and quickly talking them into booking Mikele Leigertwood for a nothing foul on halfway. This crowd pleasing style of refereeing would become more of an issue in the second half. Sadly, for all the pretty build up, the two free kicks won with the bookings summed up QPR’s problem – poor final delivery, lack of cutting edge in attack. The same problems we have had all season, the same problems we said we would have last summer.
St Ledger was causing problems in the penalty area again ten minutes before the break, diving rather blatantly attempting to win a spot kick but Oliver rightly showed no interest. That was from a corner, Preston had gone somewhat closer to scoring in the lead up to that – Simon Waley tried his luck from distance, enjoyed the benefit of an enormous deflection, and then watched with baited breath as the ball cleared Radek Cerny as he scrambled across and, thankfully from the Czech’s point of view, the cross bar as well.
A last ditch clearance from Gorkss denied Parkin a chance from a low cross, and Cerny came out to punch as Parkin threatened to move in and head home a second. In the ten minutes after conceding an equaliser PNE were completely dominant, flooding forwards in numbers, and with the crowd now at fever pitch our match officials started to crack under the pressure. From the moment QPR equalised Oliver’s arm only went one way, and Mr Dead on the touchline swooped back into the action with a number of joke decisions.
First QPR had to defend a free kick from wide that was given against Rowan Vine when he seemed to be sinned against, then after scrambling that out to the edge of the box Rangers thought they’d won a free kick when Delaney was clearly upended only for the pair of pillocks in charge to award a Preston throw. Later Matt Connolly was booked for berating the referee after a corner had been awarded against him – Connolly seemed to keep the ball in and the referee five yards away initially agreed before allowing himself to be overruled by our representative from the Royal Society for the Blind a good 50 yards away on the other side of the pitch with a goal net in the way. When Matt Connolly loses his temper you have to wonder about the decision you have just given.
Preston: Lonergan 6, Jones 6, St. Ledger 8, Mawene 6, Nolan 5, Whaley 7 (Nicholson 79, 6), McKenna 8, Carter 7, Sedgwick 7, Parkin 7 (Elliott 88,-), Mellor 5 (Brown 61, 6)
Subs Not Used: Neal, Chilvers
Booked: Jones (foul), St. Ledger (foul)
Goals: Parkin 37 (unassisted), St. Ledger 74 (assisted Parkin/Brown)
QPR: Cerny 6, Ramage 6, Connolly 7, Gorkss 6, Delaney 6, Routledge 7, Leigertwood 5, Mahon 7 (Balanta 83, -), Ephraim 8, Agyemang 6 (German 75, 6), Vine 8
Subs Not Used: Cole, Hall, Alberti
Booked: Leigertwood (foul), Connolly (dissent)
Goals: Agyemang 57 (assisted Vine)
Referee: Michael Oliver (Northumberland) 4 In my opinion he allowed himself to be influenced by the crowd. I say this because firstly having booked to Preston players, justifiably it has to be said, the home fans screamed for a booking after every minor foul and sure enough within minutes Mikele Leigertwood was booked for a nothing tackle on halfway. Then later in the game when the home crowd were at their deafening best demanding the pursuit of a winner from their team Oliver awarded one free kick after another to the home players. The free kick on the edge of the box awarded to Parkin was a joke, as was the one awarded against Vine and the decision to then award a Preston throw after Delaney had been chopped down. I could rant about the insistence on promoting young kids too high too quickly again but I won’t. The linesman nearest the away end looked like he had plenty of experience but was absolutely awful – completely incompetent. It’s been a very long time since I saw a player flagged offside in his own half as Vine was in the first half. Poor all round really.
So far this season Oliver is averaging just over two cards a game, with 19 yellows and a red from eight appointments so far. His fast tracking through the ranks is continuing, with a first ever Europa League appointment at Rosenborg v Leverkusen earlier this month coming less than 18 months after he first joined the Premier League list.
Last season was Oliver’s first on the Elite list and he showed a reasonably low 94 yellows and four reds in his 34 appointments across the campaign – 2.76 bookings a game. The cards were pretty evenly spread as well, with QPR’s game at MK Dons one of only three in which he didn’t show a card at all. His biggest haul in a single match was seven yellows and a red in the R’s home draw with Aston Villa.
The season before he showed 83 yellows (2.86 a game) and six reds in 29 matches. His most prolific game was at Blackpool where he booked five and sent two off as they beat West Brom 2-1. I watched that game and the cards were a result of West Brom losing the plot – something he did very well to keep a handle on. .
Premier League >>> No Mark Clattenburg this weekend for obvious reasons. The Man Utd v Arsenal game has gone to Mike Dean while Anthony Taylor has been given the Newcastle v Liverpool match following his display in our defeat at Arsenal last week.
Championship >>> Lee Probert drops down a league to take Palace v Blackburn while our old chum Stuart Attwell climbs up after several weeks in the lower reaches to take Birmingham v Ipswich.
Pictures – Action Images