Cheat­ing in the eye of be­holder

Accrington Observer - - SPORT -


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.

Stu Forster

Jeff Hen­drick cel­e­brates af­ter scor­ing against New­cas­tle United at Turf Moor on Satur­day

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