Nottingham Forest were unjustly robbed of two vital away wins courtesy of poor officiating and what could be construed as blatant cheating by opposition players.
Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane were left seething after their team produced a couple of solid performances and came away with just two points for their endeavours. Against West Brom, they were robbed of a deserved victory due to the disgraceful theatrics of Dwight Gayle. However, referee Lee Mason was equally at fault moments after when he allowed Kieran Gibbs to almost remove Joe Lolley’s shirt inside the box en route to goal without punishment.
The hoodoo continued at Deepdale where Lolley’s legitimate tap-in was ruled out thanks to ‘kidology’ by the Preston ‘keeper Declan Rudd, who collided with his teammate, Ben Davies, and appeared somewhat unscathed after the incident. However, on seeing that Lolley was about to score the easiest goal of his life, the Lilywhites stopper appeared to suddenly rolled over in apparent agony which was
enough to fool the referee. Some have argued that Ryan Yates had clipped Davies as he burst into the six-yard box, but if you watch the incident again, you’ll clearly see the referee refer to Rudd and not Davies.
As I said at the outset of this piece, both games were spoiled by a combination of poor officiating and unsporting behaviour by the opposition players. As far as the referees are concerned, Messrs Mason and Tim Robinson had good vantage points of all the incidents in question. I would cut them some slack had they been unsighted or a considerable distance from the action, but they simply were not, which makes it unacceptable.
Anyone who reads my ramblings on a regular basis will be more than aware that I never go down the route of berating referees. For the most part, I see it as a cop-out for sub-standard managers to deflect the attention away from their obvious ineptitude. But the astounding catalogue of anomalies during Forest’s last two matches certainly justifies condemnation of the people in question.
In retrospect, the person I feel most empathy for is O’Neill. It’s fair to say that the Derry man has had a challenging beginning to life as the Forest manager, both on and off the field of play. Winning over those supporters with preconceived ideas of the man hasn’t been easy, but he’s shown that not only does he have a plan A, but also B and C in the locker.
His bold tactical changes should have yielded the six points they deserved in the last two matches which, in turn, would have put the Reds in seventh place and two points off the play-offs. The fact that we have taken only a point from each of those games is purely down to misguided officials and apparent thespians in football shirts.
The FA were swift with their punishment of Gayle, who received a two-match ban for his deception. But that doesn’t help O’Neill in the slightest. Those two ‘stolen’ points are gone forever and cannot be reinstated.
So, the million-dollar question is: how can we rid such injustice from the beautiful game? I’ve heard many suggestions from players, pundits and fans alike of late, but it’s an extremely difficult conundrum. My personal take is that the punishment should match the crime. In a perfect world, I’d like to see anyone deceiving a match official into awarding a penalty be punished by awarding all
three points to the opposition. The risk would surely be too great to incur such retribution and, in doing so, could eradicate this diving culture that is all too commonplace. Would this ever happen? Most likely not in a million years!
As I said before, the points are gone forever. We must now look toward the visit of our fierce rivals on Monday evening. O’Neill has got us playing well and the confidence among the players and supporters is on the upward trajectory once again. Provided we don’t fall foul of poor referees or theatrical opponents, I’m confident that Forest can win this game and put pressure on the play-off contenders.