Officials change for Stoke trip - Referee
Friday, 30th Apr 2021 12:26 by Clive Whittingham
One Premier League referee replacing another for QPR's trip to Stoke tomorrow, with Craig Pawson stepping in for his first QPR appointment since 2015 instead of Martin Atkinson.
Referee >>> Craig Pawson (Sheffield)
Assistants >>> Richard West (East Riding) and Nick Greenhalgh (Lancashire)
Fourth Official >>> Ben Speedie (Merseyside)
Kranjcar's evening didn't improve much. Fed up, he executed a ridiculous lunging tackle on Cleverley and received the easiest yellow card of referee Craig Pawson's career. Agbonlahor glanced the cross from the free kick wide of the post.
Sherwood told reporters afterwards that if it had been a boxing match, the referee would have called it off at half time. But boxing matches don't have half times, and 2-1 is no kind of unassailable lead whatever Tactical Tim might think and say in the brief interludes between his pitch incursions and haranguing of passing linesmen which Pawson was happy to allow to continue unchecked all night.
It should have come via a Charlie Austin penalty kick. The extra man in midfield, the renewed purpose, the added possession higher up the field, all provided a wonderful platform for Matt Phillips to set to work on Villa left back Kieran Richardson. The former Blackpool winger had a superb second half. Ten minutes after the break he burst past his man and delivered a cross into the area which was, fairly obviously, right in front of Mullarkey, stopped with the palm of Delph’s hand. Mullarkey officiated all evening like somebody who'd been the victim of a blunt trauma to the back of the head in the tunnel immediately before kick-off and he looked right at the incident and scratched his right arse cheek. Craig Pawson, whose grasp of the handball rules could kindly be described as "loose" as anybody at the recent QPR v Spurs game would testify to, also looked gormless and gave nothing.
Instant mood and momentum change. The Villa fans now silent, the home team wilting, QPR flooded forward. Phillips against Richardson a key battle. Austin twice dragging shots wide when well placed. As Sandro tired, Michael Doughty was introduced for an impressive cameo – he should surely be used more when fresh midfield legs are required and was very decent here. Austin was booked for a challenge that Sanchez seemed to make a lot of, but in the modern game and with referees like Pawson you've seen red cards issued. Personally, I don't even think it looked like a foul. I would say that.
Villa: Guzan 6; Bacuna 6 (Lowton 75, 6), Vlaar 7, Clark 6, Richardson 4; Sanchez 6, Delph 6, Cleverley 5 (N'Zogbia 81, -); Grealish 7 (Cole 70, 5), Benteke 9, Agbonlahor 7
Subs not used: Baker, Okore, Weimann, Given
Goals: Benteke 10 (unassisted), 33 (assisted Agbonlahor), 83 (free kick, won N'Zogbia)
QPR: Green 7; Isla 5 (Traore 50, 6), Caulker 5, Onuoha 6, Hill 6; Phillips 8, Barton 7, Sandro 6 (Doughty 70, 7), Kranjcar 4 (Henry 50, 8); Zamora 6, Austin 6
On Saturday at home to Tottenham, in a potentially vital game in hand, many left Loftus Road talking about referee Craig Pawson.
The Sheffield-based official, new to the Premier League list, had been to Shepherd’s Bush twice already this season prior to Saturday and awarded Rangers a penalty against both Hull City and West Bromwich Albion – both questionable decisions. Maybe he was minded to make sure a third didn’t follow, less questions be asked of his integrity, because against Mauricio Pochetinno’s side he turned down two stone-wall appeals and a third very decent looking shout.
The most obvious came a quarter of an hour from time. A corner form the right, a ball dropping in the area, and Charlie Austin was on hand to sweep home a goal his all-action, tireless overall display richly deserved. Except for Nabil Bentaleb, who bravely, but illegally, flung himself in front of the shot with both his hands raised above his head and palmed the ball away to safety. A brilliant save. If he was the goalkeeper. We’re told the interpretation of the ‘deliberate handball’ rule is the hands being in an unnatural position. Bentaleb’s could scarcely have been in a more unnatural position had he detached them and worn them as shoes. It was so astonishingly blatant it was laughable. Pawson, and his linesman, looked right at it, from two different angles, and waved it away.
That followed a first half incident where Mauricio Isla, recalled to the starting 11 on the right side of midfield ahead of Nedum Onuoha at right back, nudged a dangerous cross past visiting goalkeeper Hugo Lloris and then hit the deck as the French stopper caught him in the gut as he rushed out to meet his opponent with a flying star jump. Again, it was a penalty. Again, Pawson looked right at it and awarded nothing. There was another in the second half when Eric Dier, impressive otherwise, seemed to climb over the top of Bobby Zamora, who partnered Austin in attack, and illegally wrestle him away from the ball in the penalty area.
Ryan Mason, a wonderful player you’d kill to have at the base of QPR’s midfield, particularly on a day like this when Karl Henry and Sandro offered almost nothing positive in either direction, was allowed to commit two bad fouls before finally being booked for a third. When Henry nailed him back Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino was allowed to come out of his dugout, walk onto the field and drag his player away so prevent him reacting and being sent off. Ten minutes later Pochetinno was, bizarrely, out on the field again, remonstrating with Pawson for failing to give a free kick, while the play was progressing down the field. No action was taken.
In the first minute of the game Hugo Lloris staggered across his goal mouth and reached up to produce an unorthodox but effective one handed save up in the top corner as Bobby Zamora tried to angle home a clever header. Pawson awarded a goal kick. He thought it had hit the bar. That didn’t bode well.
It is universally accepted that the standards of refereeing in the Premier League this year are abysmal. Far worse than they’ve been for years, certainly as bad as we’ve seen since the officials turned professional.
Howard Webb, still the best referee in the country when he retired last season, has responded to this not by promising improvements and admitting problems, but by defending the indefensible. When placed on the spot on Monday Night Football early this season with clips of three hideous Manchester City tackles on QPR players that were punished only with the award of a free kick only for Mike Dean to then yellow card Sandro for a routine trip on the halfway line, his and Rangers’ first foul of the game after half an hour, he produced five mealy mouthed minutes the upshot of which was he believed Dean was right. Last week, after Kevin Friend had made a mess of Southampton v Liverpool that a deaf, blind, mute would have struggled to replicate and Roger East had sent the wrong man off at Man Utd before claiming that all the television footage you’d seen had fooled you and he was in fact right after all, Webb was treated to a three page blow job in the broadsheets about how he has to counsel the officials after every game because the criticism is so fierce. He insisted again that 95% of the decisions given this season have been correct, according to the assessors. The same assessors who watched Martin Atkinson referee Chelsea Burnley in a manner so incompetent it actually became dangerous for the players to be out there with him and concluded he’d got every decision right. How can standards improve when the people in charge of ensuring that happens don’t think anything is wrong?
Perhaps, as well as dropping this pointless façade about all the decisions being correct, which we can patently see is utter bollocks, Webb and Mike Riley, might like to look closer to home. There are 17 professional referees this season, down from 22 when they first turned pro. They are overworked. People make mistakes when tired. Why in the name of God was Pawson dragged down from Sheffield to London last Sunday to be the fourth official (monkey work) at the League Cup final, only to then be sent all the way up to Carlisle for a nothing League One game with Cheltenham on Tuesday, and then back to the other end of the country on Saturday for this? Was there nobody else to sit and listen to Mourinho’s conspiracy theories and operate the board at Wembley? Are there no League One referees to referee Tuesday night League One games at pissing Carlisle? A human being who has done nothing this week other than travel and referee made mistakes. Who would have thought it?
This is what you get when you take Mike Riley, one of the worst referees of the modern era, and put him in charge. The only surprise is he hasn’t yet introduced a rule whereby Manchester United get to take a penalty after every goal they concede, as he tried so desperately to effect when he was trotting around with the whistle wrecking football matches.
At which point we turn to the classic line the beleaguered football officials of this country like to trot out when their backs are to the wall like this and they’ve made clear, obvious mistakes that didn’t need television replays to expose. The players make mistakes as well. For all the justified complaining about Pawson and his decision making here, QPR were poor and deserved to lose.
It wasn’t Craig Pawson, for example, who looked at Matt Phillips suddenly playing brilliantly on the right wing, and grabbing four assists in as many games, and decided to move him to the left from the start here. A perplexing move from Chris Ramsey, a man who has done so much to reinvigorate Phillips’ career at Loftus Road in his month in charge so far. Phillips’ recent success has been based on a simple premise that he should get the ball tight to the touchline, take the full back on and deliver a cross. The results have been refreshingly brilliant. On Saturday, shifted to the left, he was back to the cutting inside, over-complicated bullshit he produced to no effect whatsoever when Harry Redknapp was shuffling him around and using him as a striker and other such total nonsense.
Nor was Pawson wearing a blue and white hooped shirt and standing in a back four that managed to craft two of the worst goals you’ll ever see from a defensive point of view for Harry Kane.
QPR: Green 5; Onuoha 6, Caulker 5, Ferdinand 4, Suk-Young 7; Isla 6 (Hoilett 71, 5), Sandro 5 (Wright-Phillips 90+3, -), Henry 5 (Grego-Cox 88, -), Phillips 5; Zamora 6, Austin 8
Subs not used: Hill, Kranjcar, McCarthy, Comley
Goals: Sandro 75 (assisted Austin/Zamora)
Yellows: Henry 59 (foul)
Spurs: Lloris 6; Walker 6, Dier 7, Vertonghen 6, Davies 6; Mason 7, Bentaleb 6; Townsend 7 (Dembélé 65, 5), Eriksen 6 (Stambouli 88, -), Chadli 6 (Lamela 79, 6); Kane 8
Subs not used: Rose, Soldado, Vorm, Fazio
Goals: Kane 34 (assisted Townsend), 68 (assisted Mason)
Yellows: Bentaleb 61 (foul), Mason 79 (foul)
James Morrison, who looked like being the key man in an away victory to begin with, suddenly turned into a penalty-conceding machine. First he held Leroy Fer in place at the near post by wrapping both arms around the Dutchman's waist – referee Craig Pawson pointed straight to the spot when goalkeeper Ben Foster subsequently fumbled the ball into Fer's path. Charlie Austin, who'd missed a spot-kick on the first day of the season against Hull , lashed home right footed. Crucially, only four minutes had passed since that second West Brom goal. Momentum had swung. The mountain seemed more of an uphill slope. Something was afoot.
Pawson initially embarked on a quest to even things up. Farcically penalising Henry for very little on the edge of his own area allowing Gardner to strike a deflected free kick towards goal and draw a save from Rob Green. The keeper later thrust up a hand to palm Sessegnon's powerful drive away, and Richard Dunne was rightly yellow carded for crashing into the back of Varela as he threatened to turn away into space once more. The half time positives from a QPR point of view could be scribbled on the back of a postage stamp with a thick pen: only one goal down, could scarcely play any worse second half.
Barton should have had a penalty for his efforts too. Clearly tripped by a lazy hanging leg from Morrison, again, he was told to get to his feet by referee Pawson, possibly because the fall to ground was so exaggerated and theatrical. Blatant spot kick though, Morrison behaving as though he’d put QPR on his coupon.
Austin, Vargas and Henry all had shots blocked and the Loft began to hum. At the other end West Brom almost scored directly from a corner. Green sprung from his line to punch a cross away when he could have caught the ball. It had all gone a bit Zippo's Travelling Circus and it was anybody's to win or lose. Pawson refereed like a man on the brink of losing control, without ever quite doing so – Steven Caulker blatantly fouled Saido Berahino after he'd been introduced for Brown Ideye and play-on was waved. Then Sessegnon clattered into Barton with two feet showing and a free kick was awarded to West Brom.
QPR: Green 7; Onuoha 6, Dunne 7, Caulker 6, Yun 5 (Hill 30, 6); Vargas 6 (Hoilett 67, 6), Barton 7, Henry 6, Fer 5, Zamora 6 (Kranjcar 80, -), Austin 9
Subs not used: Ferdinand, Phillips, McCarthy, Mutch
Goals: Austin 24 (penalty, won Fer), 48 (assisted Zamora), 86 (assisted Barton)
Bookings: Dunne 38 (foul)
West Brom: Foster 5; Wisdom 6, McAuley 5, Lescott 6, Pocognoli 5 (Gamboa 91, -); Sessegnon 7, Gardner 6, Morrison 5, Dorrans 6, Varela 6; Brown 5 (Berahino 69, 7)
Subs not used: Baird, Yacob, Myhill, Mulumbu, Dawson
Goals: Lescott 10 (assisted Sessegnon), Varela 20 (assisted Sessegnon)
Referee - Craig Pawson (Sheffield) 6 A weird one. Got the Fer penalty correct, although you rarely see them given, and the Barton one wrong, although you can see why the theatrical fall put him off. But just always felt like he was on the brink of losing control of it. I’m probably being very harsh.
That worked out well for QPR, who have in the past not bothered having medical examinations of new signings, and don’t tend to be too thorough with them when they do. The R’s brought Austin to Loftus Road and rode back to the Premier League on the back of his 20 goal campaign, which included two crucial strikes in a play-off semi final against Wigan. When the Tigers turned out to be QPR’s first day opposition, Austin will have afforded himself a wry grin and when referee Craig Pawson harshly penalised the visitors’ excellent centre half James Chester for handball in his own area five minutes from time the script seemed written.
Austin, who scored five out of five from the spot in 2013/14, grasped the ball immediately to his chest while Hull protested the decision, and looked confident as he stepped up at the Loft End, but Hull goalkeeper Alan McGregor and his understudy Steve Harper had picked up a quirk of Austin’s run up in their pre-match homework that can give away the direction of his kicks and the Scottish stopped saved the ball low to his right. Not only that but, crucially, he managed to scoop away the rebound with his trailing leg. Rangers’ centre forward will have to wait another week at least for a first ever Premier League goal.
Hull will claim that justice was done. Chester’s hand had been down by his side and made no deliberate move towards the ball when he was penalised for blocking a cross from substitute Junior Hoilett. Whether the penalty decision from Pawson, a relative newcomer to the top division himself after promotion last season, signifies a change in interpretation from the “unnatural position” understanding we seemed to have reached last season, and a move towards the way they work in La Liga where penalties are awarded for the ball striking the hand regardless of position, intent or distance from the player only time will tell but it seemed like a harsh call to me.
At the midway point of the first half a terrific pass from Joey Barton gave Remy a chance to turn inside Davies and extract the game’s first yellow card. The free kick was well right of centre and seemed ideally placed for Faurlin’s left foot only for Barton to step forward and try to curl it right round the wall and into the net on the keeper’s blind side. Shane Warne in his prime couldn’t have turned a ball that far and the attempt was pure ego. As I feared when Barton scored a fine dipping free kick at Leyton Orient in pre-season, he’s clearly going to insist on taking absolutely every dead ball that Rangers get this season and his execution of a range of set pieces here was wildly inconsistent.
The momentum seemed to be leaning more and more towards QPR as the first half drew to a close with Loic Remy at the heart of a lot of their good work. The powerful Frenchman crossed for Jordon Mutch to glance a header wide at the near post when he might have scored, then shortly after Jelavic’s penalty shout he drove a pure strike straight at McGregor. He hit the deck appealing for a spot kick of his own just before half time but Pawson, rightly, showed no interest.
QPR: Green 7; Caulker 7, Ferdinand 7, Dunne 6 (Zamora 78, 5); Simpon 5 (Phillips 68, 5), Traore 6; Barton 6, Faurlin 6 (Hoilett 69, 6), Mutch 6; Remy 7, Austin 6
Subs not used: Henry, Onuoha, Hill, Murphy
Bookings: Dunne 68 (foul)
Hull: McGregor 8; Davies 7, Chester 8, Bruce 6 (McShane 45, 6); Robertson 6, Elmohamady 6; Huddlestone 6, Livermore 6, Snodgrass 6 (Quinn 40, 8); Ince 7 (Meyler 82, -), Jelavic 6
Subs not used: Brady, Figueroa, Harper, Aluko
Goals: Chester 52 (assisted Quinn)
Bookings: Davies 26 (foul), Jelavic 78 (foul)
Referee – Craig Pawson (Sheffield) 5 Overall, I thought he had an excellent control of the game, allowing it to flow in an unfussy manner. The three bookings were all correct and you couldn’t pick fault with him for 88 minutes. But I thought Nikica Jelavic was fouled by Traore in the first half and that should have been a penalty, and the spot kick that QPR were awarded was incredibly harsh on James Chester. Two big decisions wrong in my opinion, equals a lower mark than his overall performance really deserved.
Sean McConville gave Heaton his first save in competitive football for Rangers with a speculative drive that the keeper easily gobbled up showing safe hands. Hearts were beating a little faster moments later though when a poor backpass from Stewart to Heaton bounced slowly to him, he did not receive a call for ‘man on’ and as he hurriedly tried to clear the ball he seemed to catch the oncoming McConville who went down like a scuttled pocket Battleship. Cue agonised expression, moaning etc. However when he realised only a goal kick had been given, he jumped swiftly up like a greyhound from trap one and ran after the referee for a good 25 yards. Jesus would have been proud of the seemingly miraculous recovery. McConville was rightly booed for some time afterwards.
QPR: Heaton 8, Ramage 7, Stewart 5, Gorkss 5 (Borrowdale 46, 5) Connolly 7, Ephraim 7, Mahon 4 (Routledge 68, 7) Leigertwood 5, Buzsaky 4, Vine 4, Agyemang 2 (Taarabt 46, 6)
Martin Atkinson, the original referee for this fixture, hadn’t done a regular Championship league game since 2017, or a QPR match since 2015. Pawson has been in this division this season, for Brentford 3-0 Huddersfield in September, but the rest of his 28 appointments have been in the Premier League, cups, Europa League, or World Cup qualifiers. He’s shown 104 yellows and five reds in those 28 games. He last refereed Stoke in the top flight in 2017/18 – three fixtures including a 7-2 defeat at Man City.
The Twitter @loftforwords
Pictures – Action Images
Please report offensive, libellous or inappropriate posts by using the links provided.
You need to login in order to post your comments
Queens Park Rangers Polls