Firstly, this weekend’s matches saw a record number of goals scored, 41 in total including eight in Manchester United’s demolition of Blackburn Rovers and also for the first time ever since it’s inauguration in 1992, every team managed to score a goal.
With more goals, however comes more controversy and incorrect decisions from our countries’ elite officials. I will now look back at the best and worst decisions made this weekend.
Lee Mason, if you’re reading this then look away now!
I think it’s only right to start with the positive and it was a very good weekend for one or two of our top assistant referees.
Best of the Week
#1 Darren Cann- Wolves vs. Sunderland
The best decision made by far this weekend in my opinion was by our top assistant, Darren Cann. Cann, a former Norwich City youth player, has officiated in some of this sports most prestigious tournaments.
He was one of Howard Webb’s assistants at this year’s World Cup Final between Holland and Spain, and he also assisted Webb at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium in Madrid for the UEFA Champions League Final between Inter Milan and Bayern Munich so this guy has the experience and is undoubtedly the best we have currently.
Darren was assisting Mike Jones on the Wolves vs. Sunderland game at Molineux
Where he made a fantastic offside decision to deny Wolves what they thought was a legitimate goal at 0-0.
However having seen the replays Richard Stearman is quite clearly closer to the goal line than Sunderland keeper Craig Gordon and with only one Sunderland defender on the line, this makes Stearman offside.
This could arguably be the best offside decision you will see all season and that is why it has made my top 5 best decisions of the week. It’s a shame Dave Bryan the other assistant in this game can’t tell an offside like Cann can, but I’ll get onto that later.
With the argument of goal line technology being brought up every week, the officials running the line at Bolton, Stoke and Aston Villa proved that you don’t need technology in fact all you need is good eyes and confident decision making. The three incidents in these three games are my next in the top five decisions of the week. Firstly the most difficult of them, the one at Stoke.
#2 Andy Newbold- Stoke vs. Manchester City
Andy Newbold is the assistant referee concerned in the match between Stoke City and Manchester City at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday afternoon. Newbold an experienced official at Football League level was promoted to the Select Group three seasons ago.
This wasn’t really a difficult game for the officials and there weren’t really any big decisions to make, except one which Andy Newbold got absolutely spot on.
Matthew Etherington’s corner was headed towards goal by Kenwyne Jones, but his effort was cleared off the line by James Milner. Stoke were furious, they thought the ball had crossed the line. Stoke manager Tony Pulis was apoplectic with 4th official Phil Gibbs but the replay showed that the whole of the ball had not crossed the line, and with the score at this point at 0-0, this was an important decision.
Newbold didn’t flinch with the flag and rightly so, it was a marginal decision but Milner prevented the ball crossing the line by about an inch. Peter Walton went with his assistant’s decision thankfully for the both of them because had that been given I guarantee they’d have had this weekend off but they will both be at Bloomfield Road on Saturday for Manchester United’s trip to Blackpool.
This was the most difficult of the three ball over the line decisions this weekend and that is why it makes number two on my list.
Speaking of Blackpool it is in their game with Bolton that number three in the top 5 decisions of the week comes.
#3 Dave Richardson- Bolton vs. Blackpool
Blackpool, already 1-0 up away at Bolton were awarded a second by assistant referee Dave Richardson who flagged when Luke Varney glanced Elliot Grandin’s corner towards goal.
Chung Yong Lee cleared the ball, but he did so after it had crossed the line. That was in Richardson’s view. In real time I thought it was touch and go, I wasn’t sure whether it had gone in or not but looking at the replay it had gone in my about a yard.
Richardson took up his position in line with the goal line and therefore was in a perfect position to make the decision. Blackpool 2-0 up couldn’t hold on for an away win drawing the match 2-2 but Richardson, one of our leading FIFA assistants made a fantastic call that sees him in the top three best decisions of the week.
#4 Adam Watts- Aston Villa vs. Arsenal
Number four on the list comes from arguably the game of the weekend, Arsenal’s 4-2 victory over Aston Villa at Villa Park on Saturday lunchtime.
With the score at 3-1 Ciaran Clark, Villa’s young midfielder, who had already scored once earlier in the match headed a cross towards goal even in real time it looked pretty clear that the ball had crossed the line.
Nasri was the Arsenal player on the line who after handling the ball, cleared it away, thankfully though Adam Watts had already signalled to Mark Clattenburg that the ball had gone in.
People will say it was a clear and easy decision to make, but Watts had to be sure and the fact he was means that this was a top decision and therefore it makes the top 5.
#5 Martin Atkinson- Tottenham vs. Liverpool
They say lightning doesn’t strike twice but it did for Tottenham. Only a week after Cesc Fabregas gave away a penalty for handball against Tottenham playing for Arsenal, David N’Gog did exactly the same, blocking a Gareth Bale free kick with his arm.
Referee Martin Atkinson was in the perfect position to see it and immediately blew his whistle. There was a little hesitation before he pointed to the spot as the offence occurred right on the edge of the penalty area.
Liverpool players were furious as they thought he handled it outside the area. Replays show that N’Gog was stood in the area but it is unclear whether the ball and N’Gog’s arms were inside or outside the area.
Personally I think Atkinson was right to give the penalty it looks to me as though the ball hits N’Gog’s hand right on the line. The 18 yard line is classed as the penalty area so an offence on this line should be a penalty therefore the decision is correct. That’s my opinion anyway.
Worst of the Week
Now we’ve dealt with the positive we should now look at the negatives with the worst three decisions coming in the same game, given by the same official.
#1 Lee Mason- Everton vs. West Brom
Take your pick from this game as to which was the worst decision because quite frankly there are three or four to choose from that is why I have put three in the top 5.
Lee Mason had a really poor game and I believe the worst decision he made was not sending off Gonzalo Jara of West Brom when he clearly threw a forearm into the face of Leighton Baines.
The incident warranted a straight red card, however Mason didn’t even stop play even though he was in a really good position to see the incident clearly. Everton were clearly riled up about Jara’s actions and they were compounded when Mikel Arteta was correctly sent off for a vicious stamp on the leg of Jara.
Although the tackle deserved red, it could have been prevented had Jara been sent off in the first place.
Everton from this point completely lost their heads and should have been down to nine men shortly after.
#2 Lee Mason- Everton vs. West Brom (Failure to send off Tim Cahill)
Cahill, obviously angry with West Brom’s tactics should have seen red for scraping his studs down the back of an Everton defender’s leg.
I can only imagine Lee didn’t see this incident as if he had he would have sent him off, thankfully the failure to send Cahill off didn’t affect the result in anyway, however the failure to send off Jara clearly did.
#3 Lee Mason- Everton vs. West Brom (Mulumbu’s 2nd Yellow card)
Finally we come to Mason’s last controversial decision of the match which was to show West Brom’s Youssouf Mulumbu a second yellow card for a foul on Steven Pienaar.
Mulumbu was booked after scoring his goal for celebrating scoring by going into the crowd. Although I don’t like this rule, it is a mandatory yellow card offence and he was correctly booked, however I didn’t agree with the second yellow he was given.
Some people will argue it was a bookable offence, but I don’t, I think it’s the kind of tackle that should just be punishable with a free kick.
I think it was harsh to send Mulumbu off having had no previous warning. If I had been dealing with this incident I would have called Mulumbu over and told him that this was his last foul before I would send him off.
I would say the decision would be correct had Mason already warned Mulumbu but since he hadn’t I think it’s incredibly harsh. Perhaps already being booked may have had an impact on the decision and Mason was attempting to even things up but I don’t think the offence deserved a second yellow card.
Right finally I can leave Lee Mason alone and slag off someone else for a change. My final two worst decisions of the week are both offside decisions. Having praised Darren Cann earlier in this article for a difficult but correct offside decision, it is hard to believe that two gentleman refereeing in the same league, failed in their duty to spot when someone is offside and when someone is onside
#4 Dave Bryan- Wolves vs. Sunderland
Dave Bryan is one of the most experienced officials our country has ever seen. He’s been around the block a few times and has been a European and international assistant since 1999.
Having already witnessed his colleague make a fantastic offside decision, Bryan was thrusted into the spot light for Wolves’ second goal.
From a free kick, Kevin Doyle is standing in an offside position when the ball is played. Granted he was onside when he collected the ball, however he was three or four yards offside when the free kick was played in.
Doyle then passed it to Jarvis who crossed the ball in and Wolves got the equaliser. It could be argued that this decision lost Sunderland the game as they were 2-1 up when the incident occurred.
I would expect any linesman in this country to spot that as offside no matter what level he or she is refereeing at and for Dave Bryan, a very experienced top flight official to miss this is totally unacceptable in my view and is why this decision is number four in the worst of the week.
#5 Martin Yerby- West Ham vs. Wigan
With the score already at 3-1, Wigan, having already had a penalty saved by West Ham keeper Robert Green, were denied a chance to get back into the game with an offside flag that should never have gone up.
In the 5th minute of second half stoppage time Steve Gohouri was flagged offside by Yerby when he was clearly two or three yards onside. I was very surprised that someone of Yerby’s experience would make this mistake, but I guess it shows how difficult their job is.
Well there you go that’s my best and worst decisions of the week, be sure to check out my next Meet the Ref article where I preview the weekend’s games and also look out for next week’s Best and Worst