An old friend - Referee
Monday, 11th Jan 2021 17:35 by Clive Whittingham
The good news keeps on coming for QPR as their old friend Chuckles Woolmer is nominally “in charge” of Tuesday night’s trip to Luton Town.
Referee >>> Chuckles Woolmer (Northamptonshire), awarded two Cardiff penalties when last with us in November.
Assistants >>> Steven Meredith (Nottinghamshire) and Adam Crysell (Northants)
Fourth Official >>> Darren Drysdale (Lincolnshire)
So began our latest exciting round of What Is A Yellow Card Anyway? And here’s your host, Chuckles Woolmer. Lifting your shirt up slightly to pay respect to a recent fallen team mate – yellow card. A crunching two footed follow through into Yoann Barbet’s shins by a frustrated Joe Ralls – yellow card, although we asked the audience on that one. Tactical foul by Geoff Cameron on halfway – yellow card. Tactical foul by Bacuna on Bright Osayi-Samuel – yellow card. Tactical foul by Todd Kane in first half injury time – yellow card. Absolutely blatant, deliberate trip by Kane on a man well clear of him at the start of the second half – not even a free kick. Horrible, deliberate, lunging tackle from Will Vaulks on Bright Osayi-Samuel as he streaked clear down the right – not a yellow card. Needless smash through the back of an opponent going nowhere immediately after this by the same Cardiff player – no yellow card. Keeps it interesting doesn’t it, when the rules are applied harshly and leniently, strenuously and lackadaisically, offishly and sloppily, often in the same minute, often in the same passage of play. I enjoy it. And the new addition to the format for 2020, allowing a designated player to be immune from punishment regardless of action, as Andre Ayew was at Swansea in February, has injected life and drama into a flagging concept. Eight out of ten, would recommend.
QPR: Dieng 6; Kane 7, Masterson 5, Barbet 5, Hämäläinen 6; Cameron 6, Carroll 6; Adomah 7 (Willock 63, 6), Chair 8, (Ball 81, 7), Osayi-Samuel 7 (Bonne 90+5, -); Dykes 6
Subs not used: Kakay, Bettache, Kelman, Kelly
Goals: Chair 15 (assisted Adomah), Kane 27 (assisted Chair), Ball 90+1 (assisted Dykes)
Yellow Cards: Chair 15 (over celebrating), Cameron 31 (foul), Kane 45+3 (foul), Barbet 48 (foul, penalty concession)
Cardiff: Smithies 6; Bacuna 5 (Harris 90+5, -), Morrison 5, Nelson 5, Bennett 5; Pack 6, Vaulks 5 (Hoilett 46, 7); Ojo 6, Ralls 6, Murphy 6 (Tomlin 68, 7); Moore 6
Yellow Cards: Ralls 22 (foul), Bacuna 38 (foul), Tomlin 75 (foul)
Goals: Phillips, Whyte, Bamba, Bagan
Goals: Ralls 49 (penalty, won Moore, conceded Barbet), 85 (penalty rebound, won Moore, conceded Masterson)
Referee – Chuckles Woolmer (Northants) 5 The two penalties were blatant, and he was well positioned to award both immediately. Other than that, the usual collection of curiosities. Ilias Chair, a yellow card for lifting his shirt up (not off) celebrating a goal in an empty stadium. Todd Kane, on a yellow card from first half injury time, quite obviously and deliberately trips a Cardiff man right at the start of the second half, not even a free kick is awarded. Kane, Cameron and Bacuna all yellow carded for cynical, tactical fouls, but when Vaulks cracked through the side of Osayi-Samuel with a horrible tackle on a player that was free and bursting into the Cardiff half, not even a yellow was shown when it looked like a potential red. Vaulks, as with Andre Ayew when we played at Swansea with this referee in February, seemingly given immunity from cards and carte blanche to do as he pleased. Five minutes of time advertised at the end of the game – actually played seven.
Swansea, for their part, looked abject. The worst team we’ve faced since Swansea in the FA Cup. They won seven of their first eight games this season to set the early Championship pace with effusive praise coming the way of manager Steve Cooper, who’d previously won the World Cup with the England U17 side. They, and he, have rather been basking in the glory and resting on the cushion of that start ever since, now seven wins from 28 games in all comps and completely devoid of invention, ideas and threat here. Rhian Brewster, a high profile January acquisition from Liverpool, was a peripheral figure with the Swans unable to beat QPR’s press, or successfully get in behind a back line which, admittedly, looked a whole different proposition with Rangel, Barbet and Manning all returning in fine style. Geoff Cameron’s touch of death nearly got Brewster in after five minutes, and the resulting trip on him should have been a yellow card, but Chuckles Woolmer was in benevolent mood.
Benevolent didn’t really cover the maverick official’s approach to Andre Ayew. In reasonably quick succession the striker-cum-winger belted Ryan Manning twice and Yoann Barbet once with fouls that, on their own, could have brought yellows and collectively certainly merited one. When Ayew then tripped Manning again on 41 Woolmer called him across, pointed to the location of the previous three and… sent him on his way. Almost immediately the Swansea man committed a fifth, which Woolmer played on through and failed to return to afterwards, and a sixth followed straight after half time. Angel Rangel and Kyle Naughton, meanwhile, saw yellows for first offences and, in the latter’s case, he’d barely touched Bright Osayi-Samuel at all. Immunity from yellow cards is an odd super hero power, and wondering exactly what Ayew might use it for passed half time nicely. Good or evil? Fighting crime? Excessive celebrations in front of the away end after a last minute penalty winner? It’s going to be that isn’t it? Bastard.
The second half continued much as the first had ended. Bright Osayi-Samuel pulled back Kyle Naughton deliberately in a rare dangerous Swans counter attack and, after checking he wasn’t Andre Ayew, Woolmer issued a yellow card. Hugill, meanwhile, was still on his heels doing his best Connor Washington impression as first a cross from Rangel deflected perfectly over the first centre back and in front of the second, then later Osayi-Samuel got round Naughton and flashed a devilish low cross right through the goal mouth. He got booted in the bollocks late on and I was almost gutted I hadn’t had the chance to do it myself – get in there man, come on, it’s literally your job.
Of course, the stage was now set for that last minute Ayew penalty winner, and by Christ didn’t QPR try their darndest to give it to him. Penalty concession enthusiast Yoann Barbet, so sound and welcome in return all night but now with a devilish look in his eye, was at the heart of both incidents, first flicking a header back to Kelly rather than planting it giving Brewster a chance to nip in and steal the ball from the keeper. Three separate grabs at the ball eventually regathered possession for the Scottish keeper, and the replays backed Woolmer’s call that he hadn’t illegally tripped his man in the process.
That’s a lot more than you could say of Barbet’s clumsy trip on Ayew, going absolutely nowhere, right on the precipice of the box in two minutes of stoppage time. It was a penalty, and only the theatrical fall of the Swansea man can explain why it wasn’t given, because Chuckles Woolmer has given penalties against us for far, far less and apparently seems to be having some sort of love affair with the guy who was felled. Not booking him for diving seemed a disappointing waste of a 90 minute set - come on Chuckles we can usually rely on you for the big comedy pay off.
Swansea: Woodman 5; Roberts 6, Rodon 6, Guehi 6, Naughton 7; Grimes 5, Gallagher 5; Ayew 6, Dhanda 7 (Kalulu 74, 6), Celina 5; Brewster 5
Subs not used: Fulton, Routledge, Mulder, Scully, Cullen, Cabango
Bookings: Naughton 90 (foul)
QPR: Kelly 6; Rangel 7 (Kane 83, -), Hall 6, Barbet 7, Manning 7; Ball 5, Cameron 6; Osayi-Samuel 7, Eze 7, Pugh 5; Hugill 4
Subs not used: Lumley, Oteh, Chair, Clarke, Amos, Masterson
Bookings: Rangel 41 (foul), Osayi-Samuel 56 (foul)
Referee – Chuckles Woolmer (Northants) 6 Come on Chuckles, let’s have a hug. I suspect this may be as good as it ever gets for me and you, and given the weird love affair with Andre Ayew until the failure to award him a pretty obvious penalty in injury time I think it’s best we call it a six and leave it there. Until next time.
But, like I say, timing can be everything in football. Benrahma had curled one wide of the top corner on 50 which would have left QPR ruing chances for a tactical foul earlier in the move had it gone in, but most of play had been flowing towards the Loft End since half time. That was until Nahki Wells and Ebere Eze contrived to give the ball away in a bad area, Liam Kelly just about prevented Toni Leistner’s desperate clearance turning into an own goal, and then Bryan Mbeumo contorted himself theatrically into the air and landed between the non-existent tackles of Josh Scowen and Wells in the penalty area. It goes without saying that this was not a penalty, anybody who thinks otherwise is a certifiable moron, but unfortunately, as we detailed before the game, the PGMOL had decided to enliven proceedings by sending us exactly that to referee the game. Woolmer, whose handling of a long list of QPR games over the years has ranged from cataclysmically awful right the way through to the sort of rabid nonsense that should really have seen him sectioned under the Mental Health Act, whose inept handling of Championship games in general had seen him booted off the division’s list for the season before last, pointed straight at the spot. Of course he did. Fucking wrinkly prick.
It was the sixth penalty Rangers have conceded already this season, and the seventeenth going back to the start of last season. That’s more than any other team in the division and none of them have been saved. Not that any goalkeeper in the world would have got to Benrahma’s effort into the top bins mind – Kelly did go the right way, and wouldn’t have got there with a butterfly net.
The play acting that had won Brentford their second goal, and got the game stopped at a convenient moment for them in the first half when Benrahma was clutching his leg and demanding refereeing action while at the same time shooting a wind-up grin to the east Paddocks, reared its head again at the end of the game when big hard Pontus Jansson took a sniper shot on the edge of the Loft End penalty box. Woolmer played along with the flagrant clock running episode, but QPR did not – refusing to return the ball from the resulting throw in. Shame we couldn’t get an equaliser off that really, or when Raya came for a routine cross in the eighty seventh minute and dropped it cold but nobody reacted to put it into the empty net. Chances are QPR’s infuriating technique of starting half a dozen players offside from every free kick expecting Brentford’s high line to drop back and play them on as the ball was kicked, even though they’d shown no inclination to do so all night, probably meant somebody would have been flagged off if they had scored. Come on boys, engage brain will ya.
Four minutes of stoppage time bought one half chance when Jansson allowed a ball to bounce with Wells and Mlakar in hot pursuit but having survived that the Bees were able to counter attack and add a third through the game’s star man Ollie Watkins from close range with the last kick.
The penalty was crucial, coming just as QPR had gained ascendancy and equalised, and changed the course of the game back Brentford’s way. It was a disgusting decision from one of this league worst referees. But we shouldn’t pretend we were cheated out of this, we were outplayed for the majority of the game and they deserved the third goal they added right at the death. Even the penalty itself only came about because we gave the ball away on the edge of our own area.
QPR: Kelly 6; Rangel 6, Leistner 5, Hall 6, Manning 6; Cameron 5 (Mlakar 72, 5), Scowen 5, Osayi-Samuel 6, Eze 6, Chair 6; Wells 5
Subs not used: Lumley, Kane, Wallace, Pugh, Amos, Ball
Goals: Hall 48 (assisted Eze)
Brentford: Raya 6; Dalsgaard 6, Jansson 6, Jeanvier 6, Henry 6; Mokotjo 7, Norgaard 7, DaSilva 8 (Jensen 81, -); Mbeumo 7 (Castillo 75, 6), Watkins 8, Benrahma 7
Subs not used: Thompson, Pinnock, Daniels, Zamburek, Rasmussen
Goals: Watkins 23 (assisted Mbeumo), 90+4 (assisted Jensen), Benrahma 60 (penalty, won Mbeumo)
Bookings: Norgaard 46 (foul), Henry 57 (foul), Watkins 90+4 (excessive celebration)
Referee – Andy Woolmer (Northants) 4 Captain bellend, chuckling away through his staggering ineptitude.
But that really was it. Billy Sharp had been played in behind the QPR defence after four minutes and tried to tee up McGoldrick but he’d scuffed a shot wide. Jordan Cousins could count himself unfortunate to be booked by Andy Woolmer on 25 minutes for a run-of-the-mill foul, particularly because three nasty cracks at Nahki Wells that left the striker down on the ground requiring treatment on three separate occasions went unpunished. Pretty clear to see the tactics from Chris Wilder’s team to nullify Rangers’ biggest attacking threat – boot him out of the game – but in truth Rangers had already played Wells out of the game themselves, isolating him and starving him of decent service. Luke Freeman had a great free kick delivery cleared from deep inside the box and Norwood’s deflected shot after 25 minutes rolled straight to Joe Lumley. Until McGoldrick scored it had screamed nil nil.
A stingey three minutes of stoppage time confirmed once more that Championship referees have just completely given up with the idea of policing time wasting and clock running this season but, in truth, if QPR were still at Bramall Lane now I’m not sure they’d have scored. United had done a number on Wells, not allowed themselves to be caught short on the counter attack, and QPR had really lacked a plan C and D beyond that. With the annual Preston Knob End, Ben Pearson shithouse show in town next week we really could do with spending this week working out what we do when our main threats are countered successfully, and how we can change games in our favour from the bench rather than letting them drift away into the distance like this one.
Sheff Utd: Henderson 6; Basham 7, Egan 6, O’Connell 6; Baldock 6, Norwood 6, Fleck 6, Duffy 6 (Dowell 68, 6), Stevens 6; McGoldrick 7 (Stearman 90+1, -), Sharp 6 (Clarke 84, -)
Subs not used: Madine, Coutts, Johnson, Moore
Goals: McGoldrick 37 (assisted Norwood)
Bookings: Fleck 56 (foul), Dowell 78 (foul)
QPR: Lumley 6; Furlong 6, Leistner 6, Lynch 6, Bidwell 6; Scowen 6 (Chair 84, -), Cousins 6 (Smith 73, 5); Wszolek 5 (Osayi-Samuel 62, 6), Eze 6, Freeman 6; Wells 5
Subs not used: Ingram, Hall, Manning, Oteh
Bookings: Cousins 24 (foul)
Referee – Andy Woolmer (Northants) 6 Can’t keep time, allowed the hacking of Wells to go on unchecked, harshly booked Cousins, but compared to the circus his games usually turn into this was a relatively calm afternoon. In actual fact, the game was so dull I found myself longing for one of his breakdowns in the second half just to liven things up a bit.
We had been warned about the referee before the game, but for most of the first half he handled things fairly and his decisions seemed reasonable. Bidwell was booked for an agricultural challenge, as was Wzsolek for leading with an arm/elbow. The home crowd were screaming for a red card here and because of Woolmer’s dubious reputation, there were concerns amongst us as it took an age for the yellow to appear. His terrible reputation was fully justified after the break, but there had been little in his first half performance to warrant any worries.
Five minutes later Mr Woolmer really came into his own with the kind of dishonest ineptitude that leaves a really sour taste. From a corner Lynch was smashed in the back, dead centre in the penalty area. Everyone saw the challenge including Woolmer; a clear and obvious penalty. Absolutely no doubt about, I haven’t seen a replay, I don’t need to; it was/is a stonewall penalty. Nothing given. Lynch was left in a heap in the area and Rotherham broke away. Rangers regained possession deep in their own half and after a pass to the left wing, Eze turned and shimmered away from three defenders and headed skilfully towards the Rotherham box, only to be tripped on the edge and tumbled alongside the already stricken Lynch. Nothing given again, but the idiot did stop play to allow treatment to Lynch. Later Rotherham substitute Wood was tricked by Eze who ran away towards goal only to be hauled down rugby tackle style by the beaten man – no yellow card.
With that, we all presumed that would be our lot. But Woolmer gave us a glimmer of hope by adding five minutes to the 90 and justice was done. A cross from the left was met with a lovely diving header from Freeman, which Rodak could only help into the net. Great scenes again in an away end which had a good number of travelling fans.
Rotherham: Rodak 8; Vyner 6, Ajayi 5, Robertson 7, Mattock 6; Vaulks 7, Williams 7 (Proctor 86, -), Towell 6, Palmer 6 (Wood 69, 6), Taylor 6 (Newell 60); Smith 7
Subs not used: Price, Forde, Wiles.
Goals: Vaulks 6 (assisted Towell), Robertson 15 (assisted Vaulks)
QPR: Lumley 6; Rangel 5, Leistner 6, Lynch 5, Bidwell 5; Cameron 6, Luongo 5 (Scowen 76 5); Wszolek 4 (Hemed 69, 5), Eze 7, Freeman 7; Wells 6 (Smith 76, 5)
Subs not used: Ingram, Hall, Cousins, Osayi-Samuels
Goals: Wells 7 (unassisted), Freeman 90 (assisted Bidwell)
Bookings: Bidwell 23 (foul), Wzsolek 35 (foul)
Referee: Andy Woolmer (Northants) 3 A terrible mark for a terrible second half. A cowardly official who knew he’d got it wrong. If you haven’t got the balls to give a penalty like that, you need to hang up your whistle. The lack of a yellow card for Wood after he rugby tackled Eze as he ran clear towards the penalty area was a joke.
There was plenty of debate about whether it should have been a free kick in the first place. Lawrence appeared to simply run into Perch in the QPR right back area and hit the deck having overrun the ball, but when you’ve been trusted into the care of experienced Football League official Andy Woolmer for the afternoon anything really is possible. Woolmer, who succeeded in turning a run-of-the-mill midtable match between Preston and QPR last season into something resembling one of the more fat-fetched episodes of Chucklevision, returned with a first half performance here of complete ineptitude.
Perch was an interesting case study in this. Booked immediately for a late tackle on Bialkowski when he appeared to simply lose his footing, he then committed a horrible foul on Lawrence right on half time – late, needless, reckless, dangerous on a player tight to the touchline and going nowhere, dumping the Town man into the advertising hoardings. Perch does that a lot – stupid tackles in neutral areas of the field on players going nowhere, often at daft times of the game like just before half time or very late on when the score is already settled. He got sent off at Derby last season in similarly mindless circumstances. This one was as obvious a yellow card as you’ll ever see, which would have meant a red, and yet Woolmer let him off with a warning.
He’s one of these officials that goes through long periods of time getting absolutely nothing right, even by accident. It’s quite a talent actually, to not even get the odd one right by the laws of averages. Twice, right in front of the away end, he guessed at reasonably simple throw in decisions and got them the wrong way round. The ball stayed in play for mere seconds at a time before another whistle was blown, another free kick awarded, another player spoken to. Every throw in was placed meticulously. The pace of the game was glacial at times and it was no surprise when frustration got to both sets of players and a fight broke out in the second half – Tjaronn Chery and Tom Lawrence booked as a result. Woolmer would go through periods of the game where literally everything was a free kick, and then snap that by turning down a blatant one – Christophe Berra standing behind Seb Polter with both arms wrapped around the German holding him in place as the ball drifted by one of the more startling misses.
He’s not capable of controlling games at this mediocre level, and constantly gives the impression of somebody on day release from a secure unit.
The third factor was the half time score. QPR had more of the ball, and more of the chances, but didn’t look overly threatening. Bialkowski had played well, and made one decent save from Washington, but it was hardly the second coming of Lev Yashin. Ipswich, who were in front at the break anyway, couldn’t possibly be as bad again in the second half and sure enough McCarthy put a number of measures in place at the break – stopping Hall carrying out from the back, crowding Chery, getting in behind QPR’s wingbacks, seizing control of the midfield through Douglas – that stopped the R’s dead in their tracks. Rangers, as the away team, needed to make the most of their first half superiority and instead they contrived to go in at the break losing.
The fourth, final and most crucial point was the second goal. The game was much more even after the tea and oranges – which went on until nearly ten past four for some reason, Woolmer incapable of even starting the bloody game on time it seems – and could have gone either way until Alex Smithies came out of his area to head away a long ball down the field, changed his mind about what he was going to do with it at the last minute, had a complete brain fart and left Luke Varney with a clear run through to an open goal for 2-0.
Ipswich: Bialkowski 6; Webster 6, Chambers 6, Berra 6, Knudsen 6; Ward 7, Skuse 5, Douglas 6; Lawrence 5 (Best 80, -), Varney 6 (Sears 68, 6), McGoldrick 6
Subs not used: Gerken, Bishop, Bru, Williams, Emmanuel
Goals: Ward 13, Varney 54, Lawrence 61
Bookings: Lawrence 71 (fighting)
QPR: Smithies 5; Onuoha 5, Hall 6, Lynch 6; Perch 5 (Sandro 59, 4), Bidwell 6; Henry 4, Cousins 5 (Ngbakoto 67, 6), Chery 5; Washington 6, Polter 6 (Sylla 59, 4)
Subs not used: Ingram, Wzsolek, El Khayati, Shodipo
Bookings: Perch 25 (foul), Chery 71 (fighting)
Referee – Andy Woolmer (Northants) 4 Absolute helmet. Unique, uncanny ability to get every 50/50 decision completely wrong. Some of these will inevitably be guesses, so you would think he’d get them right purely by luck. But no. The James Perch nonsense summed him up – one yellow card that could easily have been a quiet word, then an obvious second yellow where he settled for a warning - followed immediately by a throw in given the wrong way. Fourteen years on the list, and yet entirely incapable of controlling midtable Championship fixtures with any modicum of confidence or competence. Total liability.
In a week where Queens Park Rangers CEO Lee Hoos unashamedly pleaded with supporters to climb on board with his early season ticket renewal policy, perhaps Northamptonshire referee Andy Woolmer was sent as a gift from the marketing Gods. Even a midtable dead rubber can be turned into a nail-biting cliffhanger if you leave a maverick lunatic in charge of it.
But there had already been one or two warning signs that all was not well with the match officials. Five minutes into the game Calum Woods launched into the sort of cunt’s trick challenge on Ale Faurlin that ordinarily has people discussing whether a red card is appropriate. The Argentinean, knees held together with elastic bands and chewing gum, leapt up immediately to remonstrate with his opponent and the pair had to be separated. Woolmer showed no card at all, presumably under the unwritten “it’s a bit early yet” legislation.
Problem was, having not booked for that, it sort of skewed the rules for the rest of the game – if you can deliberately chop into somebody with a reckless tackle off the ground and not be booked, what exactly is a yellow card? Woolmer’s struggles escalated from there on in, and presumably ended later that night with him in the arms of his wife in tears while she stroked his balding pate and assured him it couldn’t possible have been as bad as he thought. It was. In fact, it was worse.
On half time the home team were, justifiably, incandescent when Gallagher turned round Hill into open space on halfway and was clearly bodychecked to the ground by the veteran QPR defender. On this occasion Woolmer didn’t even award a free kick, which brought him a lively reception from the home fans and coaching staff at half time.
That reception at the break seemed to be something of a straw for this piss weak official’s crumbling back. Trapped somewhere between appeasing the home fans, and showing them he didn’t care what they thought, he turned the second half into the sort of circus you imagine Gurnham Singh fantasises about in some suburban motorway hotel room with a length of rope round his neck and a citrus fruit in his mouth. This routine midtable dead rubber quickly turned into a game the likes of which I’ve rarely seen before in 25 years of week-in-week-out attendance at football matches. We were laughing by the end. Everybody was laughing.
We’ll ignore the first five minutes of the second half, in which five Preston free kicks were swiftly awarded to loud cheers from the home stands, two of them for almost nothing at all. We’ll mention only in passing now the moment Tjaronn Chery seized on a loose ball and streaked clear on goal only to be obviously and deliberately hauled to the ground by Tom Clarke who knew the game was up – only to say that Woolmer wasn’t even going to award a free kick at all until his linesman felt compelled to intervene and insist that a foul had been committed. The rules say a red card was the only option, and Clarke was therefore shown a yellow.
Sympathy for Chery, and anger over the injustice of it all, is tainted somewhat by the Dutchman later being allowed to race away one on one with Lindegaard but delaying his shot too long and allowing the keeper to make an easily readable save. QPR should have put the game to bed there and then regardless of the Krusty Comeback Special masquerading as a refereeing performance.
What I’d like to focus on instead is two separate incidents where Woolmer contrived to concoct a decision that simply isn’t in the laws of the game at all. First, as Junior Hoilett was preparing to take a QPR corner, Clint Hill made an early run to the near post and was, fairly obviously, tripped and then pulled to the ground by his marker. A penalty, had the ball been delivered, but it hadn’t. What usually happens in these situations is both players get up, the taking of the corner is delayed, the players are spoken to by the referee and the corner is re-run. What happened here was Woolmer signalled for Hoilett to take the corner immediately anyway with both players on the floor, and the very second his foot connected with the ball he immediately awarded a Preston free kick against Hill – now on the ground and buried under his assailant. A free kick awarded in the wrong direction for an offence that took place before the ball had come into play. A new one on me, and I’ve seen Darren Deadman referee.
Hill and Angella’s physicality had the home fans in uproar for much of the afternoon, and they looked fortunate to get away with a few penalty appeals, but it bodes well for QPR next season – we looked like a big, physical, northern side not to be messed with as opposed to the southern softie routine we’ve seen so often from Rangers over the years. The Italian’s tactile approach to centre half play riled first Hugill, then Eoin Doyle, and finally Jermaine Beckford when he was introduced from the bench late on.
This needle led to the second remarkable piece of officiating. When a Preston attack was defused by Alex Smithies - ever commanding, ever confident, looking great in mauve – Doyle objected to Angella’s attentions and a fight ensued. Not a proper fight like you see in Rugby League, a football fight where people push each other about a bit and clasp bits of their face hoping some blood has been drawn so a red card might be shown.
Woolmer, panicked, rushed across to disrupt the melee and separate the players but with the ball in Smithies’ hands and therefore still in play he was now in something of a predicament. He’d stopped the game – though not by blowing the whistle – and now needed to know how to restart the thing. If he believed Angella was in the wrong, it was a penalty kick. If he thought Doyle had sinned, then it was a QPR free kick. If he thought it was neither of those things, then it was a drop ball straight back to Smithies. What it definitely wasn’t, and couldn’t ever be, was play on from the goalkeeper’s hands – something the referee only realised himself long after the keeper had bowled the ball out to James Perch at left back, resulting in another long, random, perplexing stoppage. I think, in the end, he settled on a QPR free kick on the edge of the area. To be honest, it was hard to tell by this stage. Episodes of It’s A Knockout held their structure better than this total nonsense.
By the time Woolmer’s random decision generator produced six minutes of added time from the bag the whole thing had basically become football’s version of Billy Smart’s Travelling Circus. Disagreements, fights, set tos and what nots were breaking out all over the field as play continued in different areas of the pitch. Play was stopped for nothing at all, and allowed to go on through obvious fouls. At one point, after Angella and Beckford were booked for a push and shove match, Woolmer then ran half the length of the field to show a yellow card to - I think – Ale Faurlin, who’d been nowhere near anything at all and could only place his hands on his knees and bow his heads in absolute exasperation at the ludicrousness of it all. Henry came across and put an arm around his shoulders in solidarity – both ended up laughing. Somewhere in his lair in southern England, Rob Styles watched on with a mixture of pride and sexual arousal. This was turning into a masterpiece of incompetence even Trevor Kettle would struggle to recreate.
By now both sets of fans were raining abuse down on the field in equal measure, astonished by what they were seeing. I couldn’t help but think both teams would have been better served by removing the referee altogether and replacing him with a bucket filled with strips of paper saying things like “Preston penalty” or “QPR throw in” and simply have the captains draw them out tombola-style every time the ball went dead. It couldn’t have been any more ridiculous, and more correct decisions would have been reached.
In the end Woolmer played almost nine extra minutes, during which there were four bookings – I think, he was basically walking around with the yellow permanently in his hand by this stage flashing it about all over the show – and three separate fights. Anders Lindegaard, ridiculously, leapt into the air and objected to a challenge from Grant Hall which resulted in another dispute and a yellow card for the QPR man. One you realise the referee has lost control, you’ll try all sorts on - like a class of going-nowhere kids in a down-at-heel northern secondary school presented with a meek supply teacher.
They told me on my referee course there will be days when you just get home, toss your kit bag in the bush at the end of the garden and vow never to go out there again. On such occasions, an inevitable failure of the human condition, you’d probably think the best thing to do would be to bring it to a close as quickly as possible. And yet there we all were, during the second reading of the classified football results, still playing, still fighting, still getting booked, still wondering what in the name of all that’s fucking good in the world was going on, still struggling to believe what we were watching. It was like the Never Ending Story. It was like few other football games I’ve seen. It was wild. It was entirely of the referee’s making. He was like a demented wizard.
I thought Woolmer might bow when the final whistle did finally bring this black comedy to an end. An old man, completely incapable of maintaining control of tenth v eleventh in the Championship, booed from the field enthusiastically by both sets of supporters. If that kit bag was in the bush at the end of his Northamptonshire garden this morning let’s hope it’s fucking stayed there.
Preston: Lindegaard 7; Woods 6, Wright 6, Clarke 5, Cunningham 7; Johnson 7; Gallagher 6, Pearson 6 (Doyle 61, 7), Reach 6 (Beckford 85, -), Robinson 6 (Welsh 79, 6); Hugill 5
Subs not used: Vermijl, Kilkenny, Smith, Kirkland
Goals: Doyle 90+3 (assisted Cunningham)
Bookings: Clarke 81 (denying a goalscoring opportunity), Beckford 90+5 (fighting)
QPR: Smithies 6; Onuoha 6, Angella 6, Hill 7, Perch 6; Faurlin 6, Henry 7, Mackie 6 (Luongo 78, 5), Chery 6 (Hall 89, -), Hoilett 6 (El Khayati 90+3, -), Polter 7
Subs not used: Washington, Tozser, Ingram, Petrasso
Goals: Polter 5 (assisted Faurlin)
Bookings: Hoilett 71 (not sure), Angella 90+5 (fighting), Faurlin 90+5 (not sure), Hall 90+8 (foul-ish)
Andy Woolmer (Northamptonshire) 2 Remarkable. One point for turning up, one for comedic interpretation of limited material.
Phillips tried one himself from 25 yards when David Edwards deliberately palmed the ball away for an obvious free kick – referee Andy Woolmer perhaps generous not to show the visiting player a yellow card for that one – but having cut across the back of the ball Phillips sent his effort wide of Ikeme and his wall, but also wide of the post.
Edwards headed one good cross over after 55 minutes, then van La Parra saw a shot blocked in the area, seemingly by Grant Hall’s arm for a decent penalty appeal, after James Perch had inexplicably sent a nervous header back into the danger zone. Things calmed for a little while after that but QPR’s first change – bringing on Tjaronn Chery for Henry and moving Leroy Fer back into a more defensive midfield position – opened them up even more through the middle of the park and suddenly it looked like Wolves were playing with 13 men on the field.
So, QPR grateful to their goalkeeper, the referee, and their centre half pairing for keeping the game tied. Wolves sent on George Saville for Edwards shortly after that flurry of chances, and, with Adam Le Fondre ineffective and mostly offside as their main striker all afternoon anyway, started to look like they were happy with the draw they’d fought back to attain.
QPR: Smithies 7; Perch 6, Onuoha 7, Hall 7, Konchesky 5; Luongo 6, Henry 5 (Chery 73, 5); Phillips 6, Hoilett 6 (Washington 83, -), Fer 5; Polter 6
Subs not used: Hill, Mackie, Lumly, Faurlin, Angella
Goals: Polter 2 (assisted Phillips)
Wolves: Ikeme 6; Iorfa 7, Batth 6, Ebanks-Landell 6, Doherty 6; Van La Parra 8, McDonald 7, Edwards 7 (Saville 82, -), Henry 6, Coady 6; Le Fondre 5
Subs not used: Goldbourne, McCarey, Rowe, Price, Byrne, Enobakhare
Goals: Henry 48
Referee – Andy Woolmer (Northants) 7 I've knocked him down from the original eight because having had a second look (which he doesn't get of course) the Grant Hall handball appeal does look a penalty to me, with a deliberate move of the upper arm towards the ball. But overall I thought he was excellent, right on top of every decision and very decisive with his calls - a far cry from his last shambolic performance here a couple of years back when Bournemouth were in town. Generous not to book Edwards for his deliberate handball in the first half.
QPR continued to press well without much success before the game burst into life with the first of two major flashpoints of the first half that called referee Andy Woolmer into action.
First, Joey Barton, in typical style, aerially flew through Harry Arter, who is Scott Parker’s brother-in-law out of interest, with his elbows high but won the ball. Foul, probably. Arter wasn’t best pleased though and Barton’s chirpiness in his ear brought about a clear stamp down the shins on Barton from the Bournemouth man. Woolmer must have been eyeing up the pies in the South Africa Road stand as he missed the act of clear violence (OK, maybe a little strong) despite being six feet away. The home crowd called for a red card. Woolmer gave Arter a stern telling off. Things were about to get worse. Strap yourselves in, comrades.
Perhaps Redknapp and QPR fans should thank Arter and Woolmer though because thanks to one’s petulance and the other’s incompetence, Loftus Road was now rocking under the lights. The Super Hoops responded too and upped their intensity.
Enthusiastically chasing a through ball, Austin looked favourite to burst through last-man Tommy Elphick, who had a tug on his shirt before scooping the ball back with his hand when hitting the deck. Crystal clear to everyone in the stadium. Clear as mud to the linesman and referee. Elphick was the last man. Deliberate hand ball. Sending off. Simple.
After a good two minutes of deliberation between the ref and his lino, they decided that the free-kick was justice enough for the most obvious professional foul you’ll see all season. Even the Bournemouth players were laughing at the farcical goings on.
Woolmer blew his final whistle, with an air of thankfulness that QPR’s ruthless finishing had taken the spotlight off his bad day at the office, and Rangers went joint-top of the league.
QPR: Green 7, Simpson 7, Dunne 7, Hill 7, Assou-Ekotto 7; Barton 7, O’Neill 6 (Traore 81, 6) Carroll 5, Hoilett 7 (Phillips 73, 7); Austin 7, Johnson 8 (Jenas 73, 6).
Subs not used: Murphy, Young, Henry, Krancjar.
Goals: Austin 27 (assisted Johnson), Hoilett 54 (assisted Simpson), Phillips 77 (unassisted)
Bookings: Barton 34 (foul)
Bournemouth: Camp 6, Francis 5, Cook 6, Elphick 5, Daniels 5; MacDonald 6 (Grabban 61, 6), Ritchie 5 (Fraser 68, 6) Arter 5, Surman 6, Pugh 7; Pitman 6 (Rantie 61, 5).
Subs not used: Harte, Thomas, Flahavan, O’Kane.
Bookings: MacDonald 51 (foul)
Referee – Andy Woolmer (Northants) 4 Blimey, what a stinker. Allowed the game to flow OK, but bottled both the big red card decisions. No-one wants to see players sent off but when an incident happens like the Elphick one, there is just simply no excuse. He cheated and he got away with it.
Be it through a rare run of good luck, or Neil Warnock’s intimidating presence on the touchline, QPR suddenly seem to be getting the run of the refereeing decisions. Most things went the R’s way on Saturday following Barnsley’s justified complaints at Loftus Road last weekend, and Rangers were especially fortunate to be allowed to run through and score the opening goal of the game after 11 minutes.
A long ball (who would have thought it?) straight down the middle of the QPR side caught Gorkss the wrong side of Evans and Hall the wrong side of Ward. It was Gorkss and Evans who clashed first, the Latvian appearing to wrestle his Welsh counterpart to the ground as the ball bounced between them. Referee Andy Woolmer saw nothing wrong with that, or the subsequent cumbersome hack from Hall that sent Ward sprawling in the penalty area. The first one was a clear foul, the second one was debatable, United had good cause to feel hard done by as Rangers broke down the field. From the moment QPR retook possession though the move was swift, attractive and incisive.
QPR made life rather difficult for themselves at the end of the half. They survived a big penalty appeal, a free kick right on the edge of the area, and a presentable chance for Cresswell in the last five minutes before half time. First Kenny was in flying form to tip Cresswell’s header over the bar after a nice cross from the right by Montgomery – either side of him and it probably would have been a goal. Then Ched Evans got in behind Clint Hill during a fractured piece of play and just as he was about to cross clearly had his legs taken away in the penalty area by the retreating QPR full back. Hill sat on the turf and seemed to fully expect the spot kick to be awarded but referee Woolmer gave nothing, looking for guidance from linesman Amy Fearn who signalled a corner. QPR and Mrs Fearn have history of course, decisions given by the only female to ever referee a Football League game incensed Luton manager Mike Newell back in 2006.
Woolmer added almost six minutes on at the end of the game, seemingly for no other reason than to prolong the home side’s suffering, but it was played out without incident and QPR’s players were left to celebrate in front of the away end. Meanwhile in the main stand, news filtered through immediately that Blackwell had been fired.
Sheffield United: Simonsen 5, Ertl 5, Morgan 4, Bartley 4, Taylor 5 (Kozluk 76, 5), Britton 6, Taylor (Kozluk 76), Ward 5, Montgomery 5, Quinn 4 (Yeates 76, 6) Cresswell 5, Evans 5 (Bogdanovic 68, 5),
Subs not used: Aksalu, James, Chapell
Bookings: Montgomery 14 (foul), Bartley 47 (foul)
QPR: Kenny 7, Orr 7, Hall 7 (Ramage 50, 6) Gorkss 8, Hill 7, Derry 7, Faurlin 7, Taarabt 8 (Clarke 69, 6) Mackie 7, Ephraim 8 (Leigertwood 82, -) Helguson 7
Subs not used: Cerny, Connolly, German, Parker
Bookings: Faurlin 45 (foul), Helguson 45 (foul), Ephraim 75 (foul)
Goals: Ephraim 11 (assisted Taarabt), Mackie 20 (assisted Ephraim), Taarabt 23 (penalty won Helguson)
Referee: Andy Woolmer 4 Not great. QPR definitely got the rub of the green. Personally I thought our penalty was, although Sheff Utd should certainly have had two of their own. The second you can maybe put down to the linesman as that’s where Woolmer looked for advice. Montgomery and Faurlin could both have gone on another day for bad tackles and he allowed situations to bubble up by not keeping decent control of the game.
QPR started the game reasonably brightly. An early handball from Kyle Naughton presented Akos Buzsaky with a chance to deliver the ball into the penalty area and win the first corner of the game which came to nothing. Rangers were then denied a penalty when Lee Cook went to ground in the penalty area after a decent move down the left but to be fair it looked like he had made a lot of it and with referee Andy Woolmer right on the spot to emphatically wave the appeals away he was probably lucky not to receive a yellow card.
Boro had a very good looking appeal for a penalty turned down in the twentieth minute. Kaspars Gorkss allowed a through ball to bounce causing a problem for Damion Stewart who was harshly penalised for a foul on Killen wide on the QPR right. As Gary O’Neil prepared to take the free kick I noticed just how ridiculously unmarked Jeremie Aliadiere was bang in the middle of the goal. My attention was drawn to him as the ball came over so I missed the ball’s point of contact with Kaspars Gorkss at the near post but the home crowd and players appealed as one for handball and the general consensus at the back of the away end was that it was a stick on penalty. Woolmer awarded a corner.
The game swung on two penalty decisions in the final five minutes of the first half. Both were given, the first for a foul by Ramage on Alliadiere as he went to ground and the Boro winger touched the ball past him, the second for a ridiculously clumsy challenge from Gorkss on Lita after getting the wrong side of him in the penalty area. Gorkss is a player I like and rate, Ramage is a player I have a lot of time for because of his work ethic and attitude, but I’m afraid both of them were dire on Saturday and totally at fault for the goal. Ramage was foolish to go to ground, and although the replays are slightly kinder to him than the live action was on the day, it still looks like a blatant spot kick. Gorkss had his worst game for the club since the Sheff Utd 3-0 away game in my opinion – centre halves are taught in the womb not allow the ball to bounce and yet with a pacy handful like Leroy Lita buzzing around like an angry wasp Gorkss allowed the ball to hit the ground time and time and time and time again. It was like he was a centre forward pressed into action at the heart of the defence for the first time. Once again for the penalty a ball bounced in behind him, Lita stuck himself between Gorkss and the ball and waited for contact then flung himelf to the floor when he felt it. The linesman flagged for the foul, but referee Woolmer was way ahead of him and had already pointed to the spot and produced a yellow card. QPR could have few complaints – punished for incompetence and crass stupidity in equal measure.
Both spot kicks were taken by Scottish midfielder Barry Robson, both were drilled solidly down the middle, the only difference was Ikeme fell weakly off to his left for the first, and then weakly off to his right for the second.
Middlesbrough: Coyne 7, Naughton 6, Wheater 7, McManus 6, Pogatetz 6 (Taylor 78, 6), Flood 6, O'Neil 6, Robson 8, Aliadiere 5 (Franks 66, 6), Lita 6 (Arca 83, -), Killen 6
Subs Not Used: Jones, Hoyte, Miller, Grounds
Booked: Killen (foul)
Goals: Robson 39 (penalty), 45 (penalty)
QPR: Ikeme 6, Ramage 4, Stewart 5, Gorkss 4, Hill 4 (Borrowdale 53, 4),Cook 6, Leigertwood 7, Faurlin 6 (Taarabt 69, 6), Buzsaky 7, Simpson 6, German 5 (Bent 54, 6)
Subs Not Used: Cerny, Vine, Balanta, Ephraim
Booked: Gorkss (foul)
Referee: Andy Woolmer (Northamptonshire) 5 Hard to argue with either penalty decision as they both looked blatant however Woolmer missed another spot kick when Gorkss apparently punched the ball clear, and should have sent Borrowdale off for denying Lita a clear run on goal with an astonishingly obvious hand ball that the referee missed altogether. Turned down an early penalty appeal from lee Cook that should have been either a penalty or a booking.
Ward then turned provider a minute later, with a pin-point cross that was stroked home by Cresswell. Rangers continued the goal a minute rate, with their next attack. Just as a large number of the 5,780 who bothered to make the trip started to stream out of the gates, Buzsaky converted a penalty following a handball given against Derek Geary. Stewart powered a header home from a Buzsaky free kick with three minutes remaining. Rangers were then denied an equaliser with the last kick of the game, as lively sub Antonio German's shot was pushed to safety by Mark Bunn.
QPR: Cerny 4, Borrowdale 5, Ramage 6, Gorrks 7, Stewart 6, Buzsaky 6, Faurlin 7 (Taarabt 69, 6), Leigetwood 6, Routledge 6, Simpson 5 (German 80, 7), Agyemang 7
Subs not used: McWeeney, Hall, Connolly, Balanta, Ephraim
Bookings: Gorkss (foul)
Goals: Buzsaky 71 (penalty), Stewart 88 (assisted Buzsaky)
Sheff Utd: Bunn, Geary (Walker 80), Morgan, Seip, Taylor,Quinn, Harper, Montgomery, Williamson (Ward 67), Evans,Cresswell (Henderson 74)
Subs Not Used: Bennett, France, Stewart, Little
Booked: Evans, Seip, Quinn
Goals: Williamson 19, Ward 68, Cresswell 70
Referee - Andy Woolmer (Northamptonshire) 4 Fussy, melodramatic and the fact he missed a blatant penalty for Sheffield in the first half then gave us a highly debatable one, gives him a four when he really should be nursing a one. Awful.
Chris Eagles pushed the ball past Peter Ramage wide on the Burnley left and the QPR man lunged in with a horribly mistimed tackle that cut the former Man Utd midfielder down above the ankle and could have caused a very serious injury. It was a shocking tackle really and I think only the time it took place and the fact that Eagles made it pretty obvious that he was alright saved Ramage from a red card. There could have been few complaints if he had been sent off, in the end referee Andy Woolmer let him off with a yellow card.
QPR did have a couple of chances though. Just before the hour mark a ball in behind Burnley finally caught out Clarke Carlisle who had been excellent to this point. Blackstock moved it out of his feet and set off for the penalty area. When he arrived the striker was involved in a tussle with Carlisle inside the area and crashed to earth just as he was about to pull the trigger. The Lower Loft reacted with fury as Woolmer waved away the penalty appeals and Blackstock could scarcely believe it himself. The general consensus in F Block was that it was a spot kick. Blackstock was sent tumbling in different circumstances a quarter of an hour later when he reached a loose ball on the edge of the box first, poked it past the last man and was then sent tumbling by a late trip from Duff – that looked a nailed on spot kick to me and again Woolmer waved the appeals away.
A very soft decision by the referee started it – Stewart harshly punished for an almost non-existent touch on Blake. Woolmer waved away two penalty appeals presumably because he didn’t think there was enough contact or a foul, but everywhere else on the pitch he blew his whistle and gave decisions for the most meagre of touches and trips. Surely a foul is a foul wherever it occurs on the pitch? If either of the Blackstock penalty appeals had been outside the area he would have given free kicks without giving it a second thought.
QPR: Cerny 6, Ramage 5, Stewart 7, Hall 6, Connolly 5 (Delaney 46, 5), Ephraim 5 (Agyemang 63, 7), Rowlands 6, Tommasi 5 (Mahon 53, 6) Cook 5, Blackstock 6, Di Carmine 5
Subs Not Used: Cole, Ledesma
Booked: Ramage (foul)
Goals: Blackstock 14 (assisted Cook)
Burnley: Jensen 7, Alexander 7, Duff 7, Carlisle 8, Jordan 7, Elliott 8, McCann 7, Gudjonsson 7, Eagles 8 (Mahon 56, 8), Blake 8 (McDonald 79, 7) Thompson 6 (Akinbiyi 84, -)
Subs Not Used: Penny, Paterson
Booked: Gudjonsson (foul), Jordan (foul), McDonald (foul)
Goals: Blake 34, Mahon 60
Referee: Andy Woolmer 4 Should probably have sent Ramage off in the first minute and harshly booked Gudjonsson in the second half but the main talking points were the two penalty decisions. The first one I thought was but can see why he didn’t give it as it was a shoulder to shoulder tangle, the second I thought was nailed on. Having not given those he then proceeded to whistle up for every meagre bit of contact anywhere else on the pitch including in the build up to the second Burnley goal which was a very inconsistent attitude to take. Failed to clamp down on Jensen’s time wasting but did ad on five minutes for it at the end.
Nygaard forced a save from Turner within two minutes of coming on and then after a one two with Furlong he hit the deck under pressure from Wood and Spurr. At the time it looked a harsh decision to me but I've had a look at the replays and it was a penalty in my opinion. Martin Rowlands stepped up with some Rangers fans, yes alright me, unable to watch and slotted the ball into the bottom corner past Turner who dived the right way but couldn't get close to the ball.
Referee Andy Woolmer typified a fussy and card happy display a short time later - booking Cook for play acting on the edge of the penalty area when it was neither a foul or a dive. Seven players saw yellow cards in all, several of whom could feel very aggrieved, but remarkably Glenn Whelen wasn't one of them. An afternoon of fouls, dissent and hissy fits unpunished by the official for reasons only he will know.
Subs not used: Royce, Kanyuka, Smith.
Goals: Rowlands (pen) 72
Bookings: Rowlands 30 (foul), Bolder 51 (foul), Cook 83 (diving)
Sheffield Wednesday: Turner 9, Simek 5, Bullen 7, Wood 8, Spurr 7, Tudgay 7, Whelan 5, Watson 5 (Lunt 6), Brunt 7, MacLean 6 (Graham 80, -), Burton 6
Subs: Adamson, Gilbert, Lekaj
Goals: Brunt 56
Bookings: Watson 22 (foul), Wood 41 (foul), Simek 68 (foul), Spurr 87 (foul)
Referee: Andy Woolmer 4 Over fussy throughout, made Rangers take the kick off again and got steadily more pedantic from there. Seven yellow cards is a ridiculous haul for that game, especially when Whelen didn't get one despite countless fouls and dissent, and Wood didn't get a second one for the penalty incident. Carding Cook for diving was a joke decision - there are occasions when players go to ground and it's neither a dive nor a foul you know.
To be perfectly honest I can’t believe this guy has worked his way back onto the Championship list at all - at this late stage of his career having spent the whole of 2017/18 exclusively in League One and Two seemingly on the wind down to retirement. So far 53 yellows and no reds in 16 appointments this season. He booked five in Luton’s 0-0 draw with Coventry at the start of December , while a farcical late disallowed Swansea goal against Sheffield Wednesday prompted Steve Cooper to admit that he’d spoken to the Football Association about his ongoing incompetence in their games. Last year 91 yellows (2.76) and four reds in 34 games, including six yellows at Cardiff’s 2-0 lockdown win at home to Leeds which was the last time he was in charge of the Bluebirds.
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