Here’s my column from last week’s Leader. It forms part of the paper’s comprehensive pre-match coverage every Friday, featuring interviews, an in-depth look at the opposition and lots of statistical analysis. All content in the column (c) www.leaderlive.co.uk.
We lose our heads rather too easily when it comes to football. The treatment Amy Fearn received from some quarters on Saturday was despicable.
I accept that a woman making her way in an overwhelmingly masculine environment like football has to accept the same treatment a man would get in her position, and referees are hardly viewed with love by the rest of us! However, I’ve an uneasy feeling that she’s seen by many as an easy target, scrutinised before the game even begins and anyway, sexist abuse is unacceptable irrespective of the circumstances.
Anyway, having looked through the match again, I couldn’t spot the clutch of howlers she was accused of!
Obviously, Adrian Cieslewicz’s ghost goal was the incident which drew the most opprobrium, but I’m struggling to see what she did wrong. The villain of the piece, apart from those Kidderminster players who harassed the officials after the goal was given despite knowing full well it was the right call, was the fourth official.
Think about it from the referee and linesman’s point of view. They weren’t in a position to be certain it went in so when the ball didn’t stay in the net they had no option but to assume it didn’t.
I’ve actually been in that situation. With no nets I genuinely had no idea which side of the post the ball had shaved and could only give a goal kick, although the players’ reaction made me suspect I’d got it wrong.
However, the fourth official must have been 100% certain it was a goal. How else could it have been awarded once Fearn had consulted him? For her to overturn her decision she must have been told that there was no doubt in his mind it was in. So where was he when Fearn pointed for a goal kick? He knew she was wrong, but made no attempt to go onto the pitch or approach the linesman to correct her error: it took Wrexham’s fevered intervention to get her to cross the pitch and ask him.
Fearn has been criticised for not consulting him in the first place, but she was busy being chased by players of both sides and wanted to get the game moving again. Also, I reckon she was entitled to assume that the fourth official, being further from the incident, hadn’t seen it clearly and that he’d surely have stepped forward if he had.
We had more grounds to feel aggrieved about the Rob Ogleby penalty, although photographs show he had a grip on Chey Dunkley’s shirt. It wasn’t as significant as the groping the defender was up to, but if the ref saw it she might give it.
Andy Bishop’s red card, while frustrating, came as a result of his raising his hands on a couple of occasions, so again you can understand the referee’s decision, and his penalty shout preceding the second Kidderminster goal can be categorised under “seen them given, but not that often.”
Dunkley could have been sent off for shoving Joe Clarke in the chest, but as Bishop was dismissed for an elbow rather than the subsequent shove, the argument of inconsistency is rather undermined.
In fact, the worst decision was a comparatively minor one as Jay Harris got a yellow card for a very robust but perfectly clean tackle. The other call which I couldn’t fathom went in our favour as the free kick from which Harris hit the bar was given for an undetectable offence.
I rather feel that, having felt aggrieved so often this season, we’re creating our own problem. We lose it readily with the officials and subconsciously give ourselves an excuse for failure. It’s time to forget about the officials and make sure we take care of business decisively. Then no one can spoil the outcome.