Did the club announce it was taking part in a new series of “Britain’s Craziest Ref” while I was on holiday? If so, I can’t wait for tomorrow, because the officials have set the bar really high! Essentially, they started badly and have somehow managed to get worse in each successive match! If I’d known a fortnight ago that I was going to type this sentence then I’d have been astounded, but here goes: the Welling ref was the perhaps best one we’ve had so far! There, I said it.
Richard Martin was the man in question yesterday, although to be fair he was ably assisted by his linesmen! I’m loathe to hang a ref out to dry, and as often happens, when I’ve seen DVD back I’ve moderated some of my original decisions. However, I’ve also come to the conclusion that some of the decisions were even worse than I thought!
Before I set off on my rant though, it’s worth remembering two points: Hyde were royally robbed by the referee at The Racecourse last season, so we can hardly complain about the unfairness of it all; and while the ref was very poor, he certainly wasn’t biased. In fact you might even argue that the poor decisions he gave in our favour were more decisive than those he gave against us.
Anyway, here’s my take on his key decisions having watched the DVD back:
- 2nd minute: Stephen Wright goal disallowed. The commentary team all thought it was a correct decision at the time as there was a blatant shove on the goalkeeper, and the DVD bears that out.
- 12th minute: penalty to Hyde. Described by Andy Morrell as the worst decision he’d ever seen, and I wouldn’t disagree! This is the one which I thought was awful at the time and, having seen the video, looks even worse than I initially thought! First things first, the penalty was won from a throw in which clearly should have gone the other way as Steve Tomassen knocked the ball off his man. It was taken quickly into the box and Brett Ormerod tried to walk it behind for a goal kick. Louis Almond tried to get round the side of him and legged him over, falling on top of him and somehow the ref interpreted that as a penalty! I can only guess he thought the tangle of legs as they went down was Ormerod tripping him up; I’d need to have drunk a hell of a lot to see it that way though!
- 38th minute: red card to Harris. Correct decision as Harris petulantly swiped Tunji Moses’ legs from under him. Yes, Moses made a drama of it; yes, Hyde made a fuss and looked to get him sent off. but wouldn’t we have done that in the same situation, especially having realised that the ref was liable to give big decisions? The fact is, Harris shouldn’t have done it, especially as we looked to be cruising at the point.
- 60th minute: Bradley Reid foul. Reid, already on a yellow, lunges in. At the time I thought it was the sort of challenge which leaves the referee with a simple decision: was it a yellow or a red? The ref bottles it and leaves it at a free kick. Looking at the video, my first impression was right: Reid was very lucky.
- 78th minute: Neil Ashton foul. A hospital pass by Reid and Ashton jumps into the tackle. He seems to go over the ball and the ref books him. Another borderline yellow-red for me: I think the ref may have bottled that one too!
- 93rd minute: penalty to Hyde. Given by the lnesman and nobody seems to know why. The assumption is that it was a handball against Junior N’tame, but all the commentary team feel we saw the linesman signal a push to the ref. I thought the handball shout was a decent one at the time, but the video is inconclusive. However, as play went on a cross comes in to the far post and a striker hits the deck under pressure from Ashton, Again, there’s no proof that he was actually fouled or not from the footage, but if the linesman saw a foul then fair enough. Ironically, of the four penalties we’ve already had given against us this season, that challenge looks the most plausible shout.
- 96th minute: shove by Tomsett on Ashton. Right on the final whistle, and just a yard or two away from the ref, Tomsett goes in late on Ashton. Rather than punish him, Martin blows the final whistle and Ashton gets up and stands toe-to-toe with Tomsett but doesn’t raise his hands. Tomsett pushes him in the chest with both hands and sends him flat on his bacl. The ref does nothing and to be fair he may not have seen it in the crowd which surrounded him after the game. However, he hasn’t requested that the footage be sent to the FA for scrutiny so Tomsett seems to have got away with it unless the ref sent him off in the tunnel and nobody has said anything about it! He therefore avoids the bizarre fate of being sent off in injury time at The Racecourse for two seasons in a row – he was the player who picked up that absurd second yellow for taking a free kick too quickly last season!
Of course, the erratic officiating deflected attention from the actual football. Wrexham started very well, were knocked back by the first penalty decision but bounced back well. Two quickfire goals swiftly followed by an excellent move which ended with Ormerod heading over when he probably ought to have done better saw us take total control of the game. The most frustrating thing about Harris’ red card was that we were in the comfort zone when it happened. It was hard to see Hyde fighting their way back into the game.
For the second time already this season Wrexham played over a half with ten men and did it very well. At Halifax they were chasing the game and were unlucky not to get at least a draw; in this match they looked to protect their lead and were it not for a controversial injury time penalty call they’d have done it comfortably. Hyde never really threatened, their only real chance falling to substitute Spencer and although we were lucky that he’d only just come on and was perhaps caught cold, the fact is that he didn’t even get a proper shot off as we typically closed him down swiftly.
So Wrexham were unlucky, and our season continues to defy definition. We’ve been good in patches, scratchy in others. Players who have played crucial roles in our performances have also made errors which have hurt us. We’ve conceded too many goals (an average of two a game!) but three were controversial penalty calls, one a highly dubious free kick and two from avoidable individual errors. It seems appropriate in this difficult-to-quantify start to the season that we should have an unacceptable defensive record, but have conceded very few goals through the opposition getting the better of our defence.
So there have often been extenuating circumstances for the dropped points. But hiding behind excuses gets you nowhere. Often it takes a few weeks for a team to gel, as our 1977-8, 1992-3 and 2002-3 promotion seasons illustrated. Morrell has worked hard through the Summer and there’s more to his squad than looked likely a couple of weeks ago, but you make your own luck and Wrexham need to start doing exactly that.
Wrexham (4-3-3): Mayebi; Tomassen, S Wright, N’Tame, Ashton; Harris, Clarke, Thornton; Reid, Bishop, Ormerod. Unused subs: Coughlin, Hunt, Evans, Anyinsah, Reid
Hyde (4-3-3): Carnell; Thurston, Ashworth, Dennis, Griffin; Brown, Tomsett, Poole; Carlton, Collins, Almond