Although defensive failings were the chief reason for Bradford City’s home defeat to Swindon Town, referee Richard Clark – and his failure to clamp down on the visitors’ time-wasting antics – was another big talking point. WOAP pundit team members Mahesh Johal, Damien Wilkinson, Phil Abbott and Nick Beanland share their verdict on the Swindon refereeing, and who should partner James Hanson.
What did you make of the referee’s performance and do you think football should do more to curb time-wasting?
Mahesh: I thought the referee was average at best. Speaking to some Swindon fans on the train home and they were adamant that our penalty shouldn’t have been given. Chasing the game, the ref was becoming a target due to his allowance of the time wasting. However, to play Devil’s Advocate, would we have been as outraged if City were in Swindon’s position?
Whilst I was frustrated by the constant theatrics, he was right to send off Alan Sheehan.
Damien: I certainly think I’ve seen much, much worse refereeing performances over the years. Many referees wouldn’t have given us that penalty so early on in the game, for example, and I can’t recall many gripes until the last part of the match.
However, the last 20 minutes or so of the game were certainly peppered by a substantial amount of ‘head’ injuries – I can’t readily recall that many from one team in a match at that stage.
In such circumstances, the referee is in a no-win situation – safest option/laws of the game with any threat of a head injury is to stop play. However, with common sense/understanding of the game, it must have been fairly obvious that we weren’t dealing with serious injuries and players were clearly conning the ref.
This obviously incensed both City fans and players, and didn’t help the last few minutes of the match. At the time I didn’t think Sheehan had done much wrong other than a shove to get the ball, but I stand corrected given it seems to have been more than this and clearly this cannot be condoned at all.
If the ref had clamped down on the play acting early on though, we might not be facing the loss of a key player. Not that it would have changed the outcome of the game, and even more so, after the event, increasingly it sounds like sour grapes. Perhaps there needs to be some consequence of ‘play acting’, but in practice this becomes difficult to monitor – the further problem being that all teams, including ourselves, in such a situation would have at least adopted some time-wasting antics doesn’t help whatsoever.
Unfortunately the focus on the ref, coupled with the late sending off, has diverted attention away from the performance, team formation and future options regarding players. I don’t think the performance was a bad as has been painted, but the defensive weaknesses are becoming a recurrent problem that needs urgent rectification!
Phil: Rarely are games truly won or lost by a referee and certainly I didn’t feel that was the case on Saturday. Yes, he made some poor calls, but our slack defending cost us ultimately, once again.
We pay good money to watch football and I think the powers that be have a responsibility to ensure that we get to see as much of it as possible in the 90 minutes. Unfortunately, until the game’s administrators’ start taking action against the farcical, fake injuries and desperately unsporting time wasting antics, this will not come to pass.
I have two radical suggestions: 1 – Allow physios to attend to injured players without play stopping (unless the injury us clearly serious). 2 – Introduce a sin-bin to replace yellow cards for time wasting, thus penalising the team at the time.
Each of these suggestions will make players think twice about conning their paymasters out of the entertainment they deserve.
Nick: First things first – the referee was poor but Swindon deserved to win.
The behaviour of a number of Swindon players was frustrating and the play acting in particular was embarrassing. The referee could’ve stopped it by moving players off the pitch to be treated, shifting them straight back at free kicks (their players all stood immediately in front of the dead ball and only moved once they were told to) or even just issuing yellow cards for any of the persistent offences.
I think the game is poorly served when a team can so blatantly wastes time and it made for an ugly, dispiriting spectacle. I disliked the way Swindon conducted themselves; but until referees clamp down teams will use all the tricks they can.
From what you have seen so far this season, who do you think should partner James Hanson?
Phil: Billy Clarke is the most ideal for me, although this is dependent on finding the right man for the top of the diamond. The thing I like about Clarke is the way that he finds width and with his clever footwork, he is able to create space for Jason Kennedy and Stephen Darby to work around.
I’m afraid that whilst ever some fans continue to judge City strikers solely by the number of goals they score, rather than the many other important facets of their role, Clarke will soon become a scapegoat like others before him.
Nick: I would go with Mason Bennett. Clarke is a clever player but I think he provides more danger from deep. Oli McBurnie isn’t ready to start regularly but will benefit from regular substitute appearances. Aaron Mclean is the man City need to step up, but so far he’s done very little to justify his purchase.
Bennett looks an accomplished player and, whilst he’s not lightning quick, he has more pace than the other options – play him for a run of games and get him close to Hanson in the hope they build up an understanding.
Phil: Bennett has been a huge disappointment for me so far, but agree with Nick that there is huge potential for the partnership.
Damien: I’d agree that Bennett hasn’t fulfilled the initial promise shown, but at the age of 18 we have to avoid putting massive expectations on his shoulders. For this reason I suspect Phil Parkinson will continue to rotate the front pairing.
As disappointing as Mclean currently looks, it may well be a case of persevering with him – some sort of run of games may well help him play his way into form.
Mahesh: Full house, I’d go with Bennett at the moment. Whilst I was impressed with McBurnie’s cameo against Leeds, I think we need some pace up front and in our team. For that reason Bennett gets the nod.
As mentioned by Nick, McLean is the one we need/want to step up. But quite frankly it’s been painful watching him at times.
“Working hard to ensure that his writing spectacles are not always of the rose-tinted variety” – meet the WOAP pundit team.
Categories: The Verdict