Lenient Thomson was more than a mere footnote in Old Firm story
IT WAS harder to tell who would be more relieved when Tom Rogic drew Celtic level for the second time, referee Craig Thomson or boss Ronny Deila.
The official made a critical error when over-ruling assistant referee Alan Mulvanny’s decision to award a throw-in to Celtic when the ball had clearly come off James Tavernier’s knee.
It may have seemed inconsequential at the time given the area of the pitch it was in, but with one swing of Barrie McKay’s boot the ball nestled in the top corner, bringing the magnitude of Thomson’s error to bear. It was a clear mistake, and while credit for the goal is with McKay, there is no doubt Thomson’s intervention was critical.
For the opening half an hour it looked as though Dundee United chairman Stephen Thompson would have more chance of receiving a Christmas card from Walter Smith than a player had of receiving a yellow card from the referee.
He could and probably should have booked Gary McKay-Steven in the opening seconds for a lunge on Jason Holt, but kept his cards in his pocket.
Andy Halliday then threw himself down looking for a penalty, but Thomson called it correctly as he waved away the weak appeal.
The referee seemed determined to keep his powder dry early on at all costs, as he again declined to card Dedryck Boyata for hauling down Kenny Miller after being caught in possession.
Quite how he didn’t book the defender for a body-check on McKay is anyone’s guess, and coming after he had missed a clear corner for Celtic moments earlier, the errors were mounting up.
He could also easily have carded Dean Shiels for flattening Kieran Tierney, but with the precedent set, a warning was deemed sufficient.
Again the policy was maintained as a wild lunge by Scott Brown was punished only with a free-kick.
After half an hour though, lo and behold, the yellow card was shown as substitute Erik Sviatchenko dived in on Shiels. Ironically, it looked as though there was little contact, but the caution calmed things down until the break.
The next booking didn’t arrive until the hour, but it was an easy one for Thomson as Dominic Ball hauled back Leigh Griffiths after gifting possession.
Thomson was back in lenient mood though when he let Halliday away with a sliding lunge on Patrick Roberts, but he had no choice other than to card Stefan Johansen when the Norwegian chopped down Barrie McKay.
Thomson then correctly waved away a soft-looking penalty claim for the second time when Celtic subs Callum McGregor went down far too easily.
A booking was shown to James Tavernier in the closing minutes as he tripped Roberts, and while that particular caution highlighted inconsistencies in the referee’s decision-making, all-inall it had been a relatively quiet 90 minutes for Thomson.
FINAL SAY: Craig Thomson deals with Dean Shiels and Scott Brown