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Night of refereeing howlers leaves unbeaten record intact - full match report
Night of refereeing howlers leaves unbeaten record intact - full match report
Wednesday, 10th Nov 2010 18:19 by Clive Whittingham

QPR left it late again at Portsmouth on Tuesday, scoring a controversial injury time penalty to maintain their unbeaten start to the season.

Football is capable of creating such dramatic and captivating moments it’s hard to understand why anybody ever does anything else with their spare time. No play or book or musical or nightclub or bar and few other sports could create a situation like the one we had at about twenty to ten in Portsmouth last night.

Stoppage time, virtually the last kick of the game, and a penalty to maintain an unbeaten record and keep a team clear at the top of the league; a man sent off for disputing whether it should ever have been awarded, 18,000 people holding their breath, and a player with balls as big as his head happy to shoulder the responsibility on his first return to a club he used to play for ready to take it.

I never watch QPR penalties, but it was hard to take my eyes off both this incident and this match. The ball flowed from one end of the pitch to the other, one team went on the attack and then quickly had to fall back and defend the subsequent counter; it was the football equivalent of basketball and was all played at a breakneck-speed. As ever in the Championship it was all heart and endeavour and very little skill and ability, John Utaka and Tommy Smith apart, but it was fiercely entertaining and, as control increasingly slipped from the grasp of three incompetent match officials, gloriously farcical as well.

For all of that it should have finished 0-0. Portsmouth had a penalty awarded that they missed, and QPR had a weak appeal for handball in the penalty area in stoppage time that should have been waved away. However as well as the heart and endeavour of the players the Championship has a smattering of match officials so incompetent they almost make you want to cry and as the league saw fit to appoint three such morons to this match Portsmouth were allowed to retake their penalty for no reason whatsoever and scored, and QPR’s weak handball appeal resulted in a spot kick of their own and the late, late drama.

QPR were forced into a change prior to kick off with Bradley Orr suspended and Clint Hill subsequently recalled to the defence at left back. Kyle Walker moved to the right with Connolly and Gorkss in the middle ahead of Kenny. Derry and Faurlin played in midfield with Taarabt, Tommy Smith and Jamie Mackie further forward and Rob Hulse as the point man. Both Smith and Derry were returning to a former stomping ground, Smith for the first time since completing a move to QPR earlier this season which will become permanent in January.

Portsmouth were without striker David Nugent with a knee injury and came into the game on the back of a defeat at Derby County on Saturday that brought to an end a run of seven wins and a draw from eight games. They paired Dave Kitson and Kanu in attack.

Pompey were the first to show, Dave Kitson touching the ball in behind the QPR defence in the area and then chipping it back into the danger area from the byline but Paddy Kenny sprang from his line and claimed easily. QPR’s first attack followed shortly after when Jamie Mackie intercepted an attacking Portsmouth throw and raced away down the field before finding Faurlin, he switched play to Taarabt but Pompey keeper Jamie Ashdown got down well and showed safe hands in claiming his cross at the near post. Taarabt then wasted the first QPR corner of the game, slipping on the sodden turf that at one stage during the afternoon had threatened a postponement, and finding only the first defender at the near post.

The first real chance of note came in the tenth minute when John Utaka showed unbelievable pace to skin Kyle Walker (I don’t expect to be writing that very often this season) and cut into the penalty area along the byline. Paddy Kenny got down smartly to block the subsequent cross-shot away for a corner, which Portsmouth then wasted, but that was a warning sign of just what Utaka was capable of and it began Walker’s toughest night so far in QPR colours.

Utaka threatened again two minutes later, turning in the centre of the penalty area and hitting the deck searching for a spot kick. It never was, and play continued with Dave Kitson who fired wide. In the next Portsmouth attack Dave Kitson’s pull back from the byline just missed Liam Lawrence at the near post and while he made a dramatic show of kicking the post in frustration Rangers broke to the other end of the field with some fine approach play by Tommy Smith who laid it in to Rob Hulse to tee-up Shaun Derry on the edge of the area and his loan range shot was comfortably saved by Ashdown.

The teams exchanged eye-catching passing moves as the half hour mark approached. Portsmouth went first with a flowing move that ended with Kanu’s 20 yard shot deflecting up into the air and then safely down into the arms of Paddy Kenny. Then QPR strung ten passes together and worked Faurlin into the area behind the Portsmouth defence but he fired over the bar from an acute angle.

There had been, just before all of that, a lot of arm waving and gesturing towards the bench by Liam Lawrence and several other Portsmouth players and I wondered at the time whether the late switch of Walker from right to left had forced them to rethink their tactics slightly. What had actually happened was a injury to right full back Greg Halford who went off to be replaced by Joel Ward, taking Portsmouth’s long throw threat with him as he went.

Far from disrupting the home side the substitution seemed to galvanise them somewhat and within two minutes they had come agonisingly close to taking the lead. Predictably it was the impressive Utaka at the heart of the move, running at Walker at pace again but this time coming infield rather than trying to outpace him down the flank and launching an unstoppable dipping shot from 20 yards that beat Kenny with something to spare but bounced back into play off the crossbar.

The end to end nature of the game continued from this incident with Adel Taarabt immediately trying his luck from the edge of the area and claiming handball when Portsmouth skipper Mokoena appeared to block his shot with an arm. This was the start of a farcical night of penalty incidents both given and not, and this was the first of three appeals by QPR that looked more like a penalty than the one they were eventually given.

Having waved those appeals away referee Gavin Ward started to have more of an influence on the game. He bought a very obvious dive from Utaka to award Portsmouth a free kick on the edge of the box five minutes before half time which Liam Lawrence then curled several yards over the bar. Then after waving play on through a tangle of Derry and Brown in midfield, where Derry actually seemed to be more sinned against than sinner himself, he returned to show a yellow card to the QPR man once the attack had come to a halt but only did so after Michael Brown came across, screaming in his face about the incident – prior to that he’d shown no inclination to even go and talk to Derry, never mind show him a yellow card. For the second time in as many games I think our midfielder was hard done to. He now has four yellow cards for the season, one away from a one game ban with the home match against Cardiff looming.

The game rather petered out through to half time from that moment onwards.

The second half, like the first, started several minutes late and with some bizarre Navy whistling music belting out from the public address system. On the pitch it quickly settled back into the you attack-we attack pattern of the first half. Kyle Walker’s attacking long throw was cleared and Utaka raced into the space he had vacated to take it before delivering a cross right through the six yard box. Then Portsmouth’s first corner of the half broke to Michael Brown on the edge of the box and he volleyed over the bar.

QPR looked more of a threat in the second period. Taarabt, mostly lost in the crowded and at times brutal central midfield area, started to make some impact but it was Tommy Smith who caught the eye most and it was his cross on the hour that was powerfully headed towards goal by Hulse and well saved by Ashdown at close range. The keeper had to make a more routine save away to his left when Gorkss climbed over Hulse to head a corner goalwards a moment later, but with a 25/1 first goal scorer bet quivering in my hand the keeper was more than equal to the task. I must say, both in his handling and shot stopping, I was very impressed with Ashdown on Tuesday.

His opposite number Paddy Kenny was more than equal to a weak header from Lawrence at the back post midway through the second half as Utaka’s influence on the game started to wane. Lawrence also saw yellow around this time, which would become crucial later, when Kyle Walker kicked through onto a boot that he left in when attempting to block a clearance down the line. Walker made a real meal of it, riving on the turf in mock agony, and a yellow card was probably about right.

Then, the first penalty incident. It actually came during QPR’s best period of attacking pressure in the half and just seconds after Adel Taarabt had brilliantly tricked his way into the area and then delivered a disappointing cross into Ashdown at the near post. The ball was launched away down field and after badly misjudging it in the first instance, Matt Connolly then made a real mess of trying to recover the situation and although he got back to Kitson who had run in behind him he could only trip the lanky striker over for an obvious penalty and red card. No complaints to this point, Connolly misses the Nottingham Forest game on Saturday with a one match ban.

Then the farce began. Liam Lawrence took the penalty, and placed a weak side footed effort to Paddy Kenny’s left. The goalkeeper, as he did at Swansea a couple of weeks back, flung himself across and saved the ball well with two hands – pushing it away for a corner and receiving the adulation of his team mates. But it soon became clear that all was not what it should be. The linesman had remained in position on the byline and referee Ward was busy signalling that another penalty would have to be taken.

Now I’ll trot out the usual refereeing disclaimer at this point – they only get one look at it, and it’s all very well freezing the frames on television and proving them wrong but they get no replays to look at and can only give what they see. But in this case the linesman and referee hadn’t given what they’d seen. They’d given something that simply didn’t exist, something that didn’t happen. Paddy Kenny had both feet on the goal line right up until the moment the ball was kicked and he pulled off a fine save fair and square. Pathetic, abject, incomprehensible, corrupt, ridiculous, ludicrous – it was all of these things and more.

The second penalty was much more the sort of thing that you expect from Lawrence – struck hard, with the laces, and past Kenny before he’d had chance to move. Which is probably just as well because if he had had chance to move and dared to save it again we probably would have had to go through the farce of having the bloody thing retaken for a third time and as Mr Ward had allowed the game to start five minutes late those of us on the 10.04pm train with a three minute change at Eastleigh were starting to get a bit twitchy. In fact in the interests of getting the game finished before daybreak the referee may have been as well asking Kenny to stand aside and just allow Lawrence a chance to roll the ball into an empty net, seeing as it now seems the goalkeeper isn’t allowed to get involved in these things. And if you’ve got a moment to spare, watch the replay and count the Portsmouth bodies in the area as Lawrence’s second attempt hits the net.

Mr Ward isn’t so good at spotting things like that, but he is very good at ordering players away from an incompetent linesman it must be said – straight over there with all the hand actions and whistle blowing to prevent anybody confronting the useless prick.

From that point on the officiating of the game became a complete nonsense. Within minutes Portsmouth were awarded a free kick on the halfway line, a routine decision, which they took quickly and inadvertently kicked straight to Kyle Walker. A whistle was blown and the free kick had to be taken again. Again, in the interests of making the 10.04pm from Fratton, I wondered if it would have been better at this stage for Mr Ward to simply sling a blue shirt on and start taking the Portsmouth set pieces himself if he was so concerned about the quality of them.

After the goal QPR made a couple of odd substitutions. Warnock replaced Taarabt with Borrowdale, who went to left back with Clint Hill at centre half. This despite Hill gesturing wildly to the touchline that either he couldn’t carry on, or that they were doing the wrong thing, or both. Rob Hulse also made way for Patrick Agyemang and then, later, Leon Clarke came on for Shaun Derry who had a yellow card to his name and a lunatic running round refereeing the game.

It’s worth at this point, in my opinion anyway, pointing out rule 12 of Association Football relating to handball. Mr Ward clearly doesn’t know it, and that became a bit off an issue in the final 20 minutes of the game. The rule states that a direct free kick (or penalty) shall be awarded if a player, other than the goalkeeper in his own area, deliberately handles the ball. Now did Rob Hulse deliberately handle the ball when he received it with his back to goal and it bounced up and hit his hand that was hanging loosely by his side? No, but a free kick was given anyway. Did Haydon Mullins handle the ball in the penalty area when he thrust his arm up into the air and palmed it away from Shaun Derry’s head? Yes, but a free kick was given the other way for a push. Did Liam Lawrence deliberately handle the ball in his area in stoppage time? Almost certainly not. Even if it did hit him on the arm, which I don’t think it did, it came at him from a matter of yards away at pace. That decision though was a culmination of 20 minutes of nonsense decisions from the officials which had fans from both sides sarcastically appealing for handball free kicks whenever anybody touched the ball. Mr Ward was losing control.

As well as the Mokoena handball appeal in the first half, and the Mullins one in the second, Rangers had a third very decent shout for a penalty when Kaspars Gorkss, up from the back for a free kick, clearly seemed to be elbowed by a Portsmouth player but predictably play on was waved.

Portsmouth’s set up at this point was, in my opinion, very strange. They’re a good side playing very well at the moment and having taken the lead against ten men it seemed unduly negative of Cotterill to suddenly make them all sit behind the ball to hold what they had. There was the inevitable time wasting as well, which goalkeeper Jamie Ashdown saw yellow for. It invited pressure from QPR, who showed much more urgency in their play after the injustice of the goal than they had before, and cost them two points in the end although again there was no legislating for the goal itself.

Right at the end of normal time Tommy Smith went to cross the ball from the deadball line, it was blocked away by Lawrence and for the seven thousandth time in the second half everybody appealed for handball. It wasn’t, it hit Lawrence in his rib cage, but laughably referee and linesman awarded a spot kick anyway.

Lawrence was livid, confronting both officials with a look of rage on his face. By the time his dissent earned him a second yellow card and subsequent red he had torn the shirt from his back to show the telltale football print on his chest. With the shirt hanging loosely around his neck like some sort of sash and his peroxide blonde hair he looked like some crazed Miss Arizona, protesting at being stripped of her title.

In the end she trooped off to join Matt Connolly in the early bath water. Had the game run for another ten minutes I’m convinced they would have been joined by another player or two such was the lack of grip Mr Ward had on the game by this stage.

With Buzsaky spending time with his surgeon again (he sees him more than he does Mrs Buzsaky) Taarabt and Hulse already removed and Heidar Helguson still recovering from a steroid injection into the side of his head penalty takers were thin on the ground. Step forward Tommy Smith who, after another lengthy delay while Mr Ward ensured that everybody was placed just so and the nasty goalkeeper wasn’t going to make any attempts to try and save it, calmly banged the ball into the bottom corner for a very satisfying equaliser.

Having advertised four minutes of added time Mr Ward then preceded to play six – my mum, an experienced reception class teacher, says some children really struggle with time so maybe Gavin’s class hasn’t reached that part of the curriculum yet. The game kicked off both the first and the second halves late as well.

Now it is not LoftforWords’ style to just slag off referees. In fact it’s an active editorial policy of this site to, whenever possible, side with the match official. I’m a qualified referee, I’ve refereed football matches for years, and I know the challenges it can bring. On only three occasions in 17 matches this season has a match report ended in a mark of less than five out of ten for an official, because it’s too easy to blame the referee all the time and there’s nothing more annoying and boring than turning on one radio phone in after another to some Chelsea fan or other who didn’t go to the game but listened to the second half while he was painting his kitchen ceiling starting his call with: “I know we don’t like to criticise referees, but that bloke today…”

But what exactly should I do in this situation? Or indeed the situation I found myself in ten days ago after spending the thick end of £100 going to watch QPR v Burnley only for the referee to blow his whistle and interrupt the play every minute and 45 seconds? Should I just pat them on the head and trot out Graham Poll’s favourite mantra about it not being the referees who make a bad pass, or commit a foul, or make the wrong substitution, or dive? Should I focus instead on Matthew Connolly, who misjudged the original ball and then fouled Dave Kitson in the area allowing the penalty farce to occur in the first place? Or Steve Cotterill who, despite having an in form team leading 1-0 against ten men, inexplicably chose to try and sit back and soak up pressure for the final 20 minutes culminating in the nonsense decision that robbed him of two points?

Those points are certainly worthy of mention and analysis, but they do not in any way excuse the three match officials for their handling of this fixture. Allow me to quote our referee Gavin Ward, from his Ref World profile, on what makes a good referee: “Remaining calm in all situations with positive body language, man management and self confidence helps to control matches, as players pick up on this. Having the ability to listen to advice offered from more senior colleagues, this will help develop you as referee. Most importantly is to enjoy what you do.”

I find this quote amusing and disturbing in equal measure. Stop me if I go wrong at any point but is the most important part of refereeing not getting as many decisions right as possible? You can have all the positive body language and calmness and self confidence in the world, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a good referee. The most important part of being a referee is getting the big decisions right and Gavin Ward has persistently shown a chronic inability to do this. Admittedly on Tuesday he was guided by a couple of linesman who may as well have shoved their flags up their arses for all the use they were getting out of the bloody things but it is the referee’s responsibility to get the big calls right and on Tuesday at Portsmouth, and last season at Reading, whenever a big decision has had to be made Mr Ward has consistently got it wrong. And for all his talk of remaining calm and adopting a positive body language he always retreats to his book and starts handing out cards once he’s lost control.

As for QPR, well the spirit to fight back and keep going right to the end in the face of a numerical disadvantage and injustice was worthy of high praise. I was particularly impressed with Mackie and Smith I this regard. I was a little perplexed with the substitutions, certainly I would have left Taarabt on when chasing the game even though he’d had a quiet night, but we got the equaliser we needed in the end.

We are now unbeaten in an unprecedented 16 matches at the start of the season, and remain top pending Cardiff’s game at Reading tonight. On Saturday we travel to Nottingham Forest with two defenders suspended – Forest are unbeaten in 27 home games, and we haven’t won there in 28 attempts. Another record to be broken perhaps?

Have Your Say >>> Interactive Player Ratings >>> Message Board Match Thread

Portsmouth: Ashdown 7, Halford 6 (Ward 26, 6), Mokoena 6, Sonko 7, Dickinson 6, Lawrence 7, Mullins 6, Brown 6, Utaka 8 (Ciftci 86, -), Kitson 6, Kanu 5 (Hreidarsson 90, -)

Subs Not Used: Flahavan, Hughes, Rocha

Sent Off: Lawrence (two bookings)

Booked: Lawrence (foul), Ashdown (time wasting), Lawrence (dissent)Goals: Lawrence 71 (penalty won Kitson)

QPR: Kenny 7, Walker 6, Connolly 6, Gorkss 7, Hill 6, Derry 6 (Clarke 80, -),Faurlin 6, Taarabt 6 (Borrowdale 72, 6), Mackie 7, Smith 7, Hulse 6 (Agyemang 72, 5)

Subs Not Used: Cerny, Rowlands, Ephraim, Andrade

Sent Off: Connolly (professional foul)

Booked: Derry (dissent)

Goals: Smith 90 (penalty won Smith)

QPR Star Man – Tommy Smith 7 Worked really hard and played some nice football on the ground, which at times we didn’t do enough, particularly in the first half. Showed huge bottle to take the penalty at the end and tucked it away beautifully.

Referee: Gavin Ward (Surrey) 3 What is there left to say? Last season, when Mr Ward turned our game at Reading into almost as big a farce as this one, Neil Warnock said he didn’t feel the referee was ready for games of that magnitude. And presumably somebody somewhere agreed with him because since then he has only refereed three Championship matches and they have been what I would call low profile fixtures with small away followings, little ill feeling between the clubs and not as much pressure as there would be in a Reading v QPR or Portsmouth v QPR fixture. By that token presumably somebody somewhere then though that having done a few months in front of low crowds and in lower divisions Mr Ward, and his two linesman, were ready to step back up and take charge of a big game between two in form and notoriously physical sides at an atmospheric and hostile stadium. Whoever made that decision should be taken aside today and beaten by somebody with board with a nail in it.

Attendance: 17,818 (2500 QPR approx) Fratton Park always has a terrific atmosphere and this game was no exception. The Portsmouth fans sang through the first half an hour of the second half, before quietening down as their team came under more pressure, and the sizeable following of QPR fans behind the goal made plenty of noise as well.

Photo: Action Images

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qprdan added 19:26 - Nov 10
"he looked like some crazed Miss Arizona, protesting at being stripped of her title".

Just of the season...

NorwayRanger16 added 21:03 - Nov 10
When we don't lose going down to ten men twice in a week, pompey allowed a retake of the spot kick, missing all our penalty takers when offered a get out of jail card, how are we going to lose?!
The Invincibles, brilliant!

Superb write up, very funny read. Loved the Miss Arizona point :-)

Media in Norway have been reporting all day that Norwegian international Petter Vaagan Moen has been at a medical at QPR today, before signing for free in january and a proposed 3,5 year deal. Just had his best season of his career, after moving from the left wing to a more central AM position, + 10 goals. Very decent left foot, good range of both passes and shots. Similar to Blackburns Morten Gamst Pedersen, with good set pieces delivery.
Think we need a left footed midfielder with Cooky injury prone, just not sure if he is up for the physical and pacey championship.

Bring on Forest, best of luck !

QPRCambs added 22:31 - Nov 10
I've only made it to two away games this season and given my long-term track record on away grounds that's probably just as well really, but in both (Palace and Portsmouth) I've seen real steel in the side - something that has been noticeably absent over many previous years. I thought Portsmouth were a pretty decent side and they will cause others problems unless and until they run out of players. We were at our most vulnerable when we pressed forward and then lost the ball cheaply and that cost us the pen. It was, though a ridiculous decision to demand the re-take...

But, great atmosphere, decent result (made even better by other results tonight) and a good trip all round. My player of the week is Jamie Mackie who, in addition to his positive display last night, did the best job of covering two positions I've ever seen on Saturday - a real corner flag to corner flag fullback come winger :)

Myke added 23:02 - Nov 10
I was surprised too to see Barrowdale replace Tarrabt especially when he didn't come in for Hill last Saturday. Could it be that (with Hall still not fit?) he was trying out Hill for centre-half in the absence of Connolly versus Forest? We really are a bit thin on the ground both defence and defensive midfield wise. The alternative is Leigerwood at right, Walker at left, but that would still mean Hill in the centre.

Rs4life added 06:18 - Nov 11
i almost had a bloody heart attack listening to it on the radio herein Australia

extratimeR added 11:49 - Nov 11
Great report Clive, missed game as recently binned at work and having to be a tadge careful with funds, (also missus does not yet know going to Forest).

I to had the pleasure of watching this clown ruin the game at Reading last year, how many more awful refs are we going to have to put up with?

Listened on radio. Rs support was great, even Walker commented on it.

Thanks again Clive, Miss Arizona! that will stick for the home game.

AshteadR added 14:05 - Nov 11
Excellent report Clive.

A good point, well deserved in the end. Let's hope Hulse starts performing like Smith soon.

Cotterill summed up the match officials by saying the game was just too big for them.

Now, if we win Saturday, the writing really is on the wall......

Monahoop added 16:13 - Nov 11
Great report. Got a bit of luck mind you at the end and know doubt will get more as the season progresses. This team just doesn't know when it's beaten though at present.
Good to see Swansea and Cardiff bottling it last night.

Elliott42 added 19:18 - Nov 11
It wasn't a great game to be honest. Overall a point was fair for both teams. They shouldn't have had their goal, and we shouldn't have had ours. All credit goes to Tommy Smith for stepping up for that penalty in the 90th minute, against his former team. Great to see Swansea losing, and Cardiff getting only a point. Can we break the record with a win Saturday? Lets hope so.

Rs4life added 08:18 - Nov 12
Hopefully Derry gets his yellow on saturday so he misses out against PNE rather than Cardiff.

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