Red card will only serve to gal­vanise Ter­ri­ers, claims Wag­ner

Yorkshire Post - Sports Monday - - FRONT PAGE - LEON WOBSCHALL

AG­GRIEVED Hud­der­s­field Town head coach David Wag­ner be­lieves that the hugely con­tro­ver­sial dis­missal of Steve Mounie will foster a siege men­tal­ity among his Ter­ri­ers play­ers.

Wag­ner was in­can­des­cent with rage at the per­for­mance of ref­eree Michael Oliver in his side’s 2-1 Premier League home loss to Brighton on Satur­day – on an af­ter­noon when Town played with 10 men for just un­der an hour after Mounie’s send­ing off.

The Benin striker was shown a straight red card for a 32nd­minute chal­lenge on Al­bion mid­fielder Yves Bis­souma – a de­ci­sion which pro­voked wide­spread fury among Town sup­port­ers.

It was com­pounded by the sight of Brighton sub­sti­tute Leon Ba­lo­gun es­cap­ing with a late cau­tion after a nasty tackle on Erik Drum, with Town also in­dig­nant at Oliver’s fail­ure to point to the spot after Alex Pritchard went down un­der pres­sure from Pas­cal Gross just be­fore the break.

But it was Mounie’s send­ing-off which proved the game-chang­ing mo­ment, with Town hav­ing led thanks to a strike after just 54 sec­onds from Mathias Zanka, with the vis­i­tors mak­ing the most of their nu­mer­i­cal ad­van­tage to run out win­ners.

It made for a tough af­ter­noon for Wag­ner, with Brighton coun­ter­part Chris Hughton ad­mit­ting to hav­ing sym­pa­thy for the Ger­man after the game.

Wag­ner, whose side face back-to-back trips to Bournemouth and Arse­nal this week, said: “When the big de­ci­sions go against you, foot­ball makes for no fun and no foot­ball team has a chance of be­ing suc­cess­ful.

“What I can say about my play­ers is that I re­ally like how they fought and tried to keep their heads high against these de­ci­sions as it was not easy, for sure.

“But this will bring us even more to­gether as a group to show ev­ery­body that is im­por­tant. You only like to have the feel­ing that you are judged fairly and this was not the case (on Satur­day).

“Even though I can clearly say that no ref­eree does this on pur­pose, we have seen a foot­ball match and can only speak about this ref­er­ee­ing de­ci­sion and we are right only to speak about this.

“To be to­tally hon­est, I do not like to speak about any­thing else rather than this (Mounie) de­ci­sion be­cause this de­ci­sion in­flu- enced and dis­turbed the match. And this is why it was no fun.”

Brighton chief Hughton added: “If I am David, then I would be feel­ing ag­grieved. It is nor­mal when it is your own player as prob­a­bly these are send­ings off that a good few years ago would not have been. But it is more dif­fi­cult for the ref­er­ees now. The game has changed.”

IT is tra­di­tional at this time of year for peo­ple to start to think of oth­ers and pass on fes­tive wishes to those they hold in fond re­gard by way of a Christ­mas greet­ing or two.

Rest as­sured that after Satur­day’s dis­pu­ta­tious events, ref­eree Michael Oliver will not be the re­cip­i­ent of such good­will from those with Hud­der­s­field Town firmly in their hearts.

Fa­mously, Brighton chief Chris Hughton – a more civil and re­spected man­ager on the cir­cuit you would strug­gle to find – had a face that re­sem­bled thun­der after his side’s 3-1 de­feat to Town when the pair were push­ing for pro­mo­tion in Fe­bru­ary, 2017, with the vis­it­ing dress­ing room at the John Smith’s Sta­dium not a place to be, by all ac­counts.

On this lat­est meet­ing be­tween these clubs, the fury was vis­i­bly dis­played by coun­ter­part David Wag­ner, but it was noth­ing to do with the dis­play of his side.

Wag­ner, whose pos­i­tiv­ity and smile has lit up many a room since his ar­rival in Hud­der­s­field, strug­gled to con­ceal his anger to­wards Oliver fol­low­ing his de­ci­sion to dis­miss Steve Mounie for a high tackle on Brighton mid­fielder Yves Bis­souma on 32 min­utes – and not send off Brighton sub­sti­tute Leon Ba­lo­gun for a sim­i­larly con­tro­ver­sial chal­lenge on Erik Drum late on.

The Town head coach was ashen-faced in his post-match press ut­ter­ances. Foot­ball is not fun on af­ter­noon’s like this, he said, and the Ger­man had a point.

Never mind Tyson Fury, this was Wag­ner fury.

A vat of salt was rubbed into wounds by, in his opin­ion, Town also not be­ing awarded a firsthalf penalty for a spot of man­han­dling in the area by Brighton’s Pas­cal Gross on Alex Pritchard. It never rains, but pours.

But it was the Mounie red on 32 min­utes which proved the most bit­ter devel­op­ment.

What can be in no doubt is that his chal­lenge on Bis­souma smacked of poor tech­nique and was high.

Equally, it was in no way ma­li­cious, with the Town man not ‘fol­low­ing through’ on the Al­bion schemer, who showed no ill-ef­fects from the tackle de­spite a fair bit of at­ten­tion and was to prove a dom­i­nant on-pitch force, par­tic­u­larly on the re­sump­tion.

In close at­ten­dance to the firsthalf flash­point, Oliver was quick to give Mounie his march­ing or­ders, but ul­ti­mately left him­self open to the charge of grave in­con­sis­tency after only is­su­ing a late cau­tion to Ba­lo­gun after a chal­lenge on Durm that was nasty and laden with in­tent in com­par­i­son.

Oliver was the sub­ject of a tor­rent of vit­riol at the fi­nal whis­tle, but, un­for­tu­nately, it was back­ground noise. The dam­age had been done in a game which Town en­tered into with high hopes of tak­ing some­thing from; if not win­ning.

On Town’s sense of in­jus­tice, par­tic­u­larly at Mounie’s dis­missal, sub­sti­tute Lau­rent De­poitre said: “I think if it is a red card, it is a red card for them as well, so that is the prob­lem.

“It (Mounie send­ing off ) changes the game com­pletely. I also think it was a clear penalty on Pritchard. It could have been 2-0 and the game would have been com­pletely dif­fer­ent.

“I do not like to speak about the ref­er­ees, but I think he played a big role in this de­feat.

“They (Brighton) were not very dan­ger­ous and then there were a few de­ci­sions from the ref­eree that we do not re­ally un­der­stand.”

All this on an af­ter­noon which started off so well for Town and pro­vided a spot of his­tory.

Just 54 sec­onds had elapsed when Mathias Zanka em­phat­i­cally pow­ered home a header for the fastest goal of the Premier League sea­son with fans hav­ing barely set­tled into their seats.

It owned plenty to the slap­dash de­fend­ing of Brighton stal­wart Bruno, whose wretched skewed clear­ance ar­rowed to­wards his own goal, with Zanka dis­play­ing pur­pose and phys­i­cal­ity to beat Al­bion goal­keeper Matt Ryan to the ball and reg­is­ter his first strike on home soil.

It was the pre­lude to a ropey de­fen­sive show­ing from Brighton early on, but they were of­fered en­cour­age­ment at the other end.

Shane Duffy saw his point­blank header kept out by Jonas Lossl, with Jonathan Hogg’s fol­low-up block to get in the way of Florin An­done’s re­bound pre­vent­ing a cer­tain lev­eller.

Then came Mounie’s gamechanger, al­though Town ini­tially re­fused to be cowed and roared de­fi­ance be­fore more con­tro­versy when a point-blank header from Ter­ence Kon­golo was blocked on the line by An­done, with Oliver un­moved when Pritchard went down in the area after close at­ten­tion from Gross.

Ryan made a scram­bling save to keep out Aaron Mooy’s free­kick be­fore Duffy’s lev­eller fol­low­ing a pen­e­trat­ing cross from Solly March ap­plied the sting and Town were never quite the same.

Worn down by Al­bion pres­sure on the restart, the hosts suc­cumbed when a sharp header from An­done – his first goal in English foot­ball – flew in after an­other qual­ity as­sist from March.

The home fans’ mood to­wards Oliver was in­creas­ingly febrile, only re­in­forced when Ba­lo­gun es­caped a late red. One of those days, all right.

PIC­TURES: DAVE THOMP­SON/PA

QUICK STRIKE: Hud­der­s­field Town play­ers cel­e­brate the quick­est goal of the Premier League sea­son from Mathias Jor­gensen. In­set, Hud­der­s­field are de­nied a penalty when Alex Pritchard is hauled to the ground at the John Smith’s Sta­dium.

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