Cheating in the eye of beholder
ROVERS VIEW BY OLD BLACKBURNIAN
THERE is a marvellous exchange in the classic BBC 1980s sitcom ‘Yes Minister’, in which the character of Bernard Woolley, the PM’s principal private secretary, recalls the “Russell conjugation” in the following form;
“It’s one of those irregular verbs, isn’t it?
“I have an independent mind, You are eccentric, He is round the twist.”
I think football supporters are programmed to react similarly.
“My team is honest, Your bloke is a cheat, He (the referee) is biased.”
The question of whether Elliott Bennett’s second yellow card (earning a red) was justified certainly split opinion on Saturday night; depending upon your allegiance.
“I see a foul, You see a tackle, He (the referee) sees a dive.”
Well, that was a highly sanitised summary of this version of the conjugation!
At 3pm, away to the league’s second placed side, I suspect many Rov- ers fans would gladly have accepted a point.
After the game’s pivotal moment, being reduced to 10 men, with less than an hour on the clock, a point from this encounter seemed a fanciful notion.
Bennett, truth be told, was not having one of his finest appearances in a Rovers shirt and on another day may well have been substituted even before he ran purposefully at the Wigan defence in the 58th minute.
What happened next is subject to conjecture; the naked eye suggested a foul, the video replays (and I must have watched it at least 25 times) were inconclusive, as a Wigan player blocks the view of the camera at the critical moment of potential (or actual) impact.
What is beyond doubt is that the referee was right up with play when he made his call and believed (rightly or wrongly) that he had seen simulation.
Consequently, the laws insist upon a yellow card being issued for “unsporting behaviour” and this meant the hapless Bennett had to clock off half an hour early, leaving 10 to do the work of 11.
The subsequent clean sheet must therefore have tasted especially sweet for a back four that had already endured its fair share of horrors in this embryonic season.
Overall it was a scrappy game, refereed fussily and inconsistently by Darren England, who had “cards emerging from his top pocket like a pop up toaster” as Kevin Keegan once memorably remarked.
It never truly caught fire and Wigan, while enjoying the majority of chances, didn’t live up to their pre-match billing. Jacobs and Powell had good opportunities and Massey hit the post late on when Wigan were pressing hard for the winner.
However, Rovers’ chances were even fewer and further between. The best efforts came from excellent wing play from Conway, supplying an energetic Bradley Dack; though Dack was substituted yet again, sacrificed shortly after the Bennett dismissal, to be replaced by Danny Graham.
Here, it was the defence that rightly earned the plaudits, the attack demonstrating that it still needs some research and development.
Shorn of Chapman’s direct running it places a massive burden on Conway to provide the service and Dack to provide unpredictability.
The absence of Samuel and Bennett for disciplinary reasons and Chapman due to a hamstring strain sustained late on at Wigan, meant a reshuffled pack for the visit of the Cod Army on Tuesday evening.
Both sides were level with 24 points beforehand, Rovers having played a game fewer than their opponents.
That a league game between these two sides was taking place, let alone that it could be described as vital, serves to illustrate the prevailing flight paths of each club over the last few years.
Just when you might have believed that a Rovers defence featuring Paul Downing meant a surefire clean sheet, Fleetwood trawled the depths of their resilience, netting twice to snuff out any bur- geoning Ewood optimism. Rovers’ unerring ability to fluff their lines at another key audition really should serve to structure everyone’s expectations.
Once more, Bradley Dack seemed to be the sole provider of creativity and even though Mowbray finally overcame his “Nutt allergy” by introducing youngster Joe Nuttall for his first team debut to immediate effect; what should have been a glorious winner merely served to set up Fleetwood for the seemingly inevitable late equaliser.
Incredibly, the point lifts Rovers into the playoffs but automatic promotion already looks a pipe dream after this Halloween howler.
Perhaps an FA Cup run can re-vitalise the season?
The visit of Barnet on Saturday will hardly have the club rushing out to employ more turnstile operators but a convincing victory; possibly featuring some of Damien Johnson’s promising academy prospects, might yet prove to be a catalyst to ignite this season on a Bonfire weekend.
Jeff Hendrick celebrates after scoring against Newcastle United at Turf Moor on Saturday