Oh no it wasn’t the worst refereeing decision you’ve ever seen. Oh yes it was. Take your pick. It was a shocker however you look at it and we await either a fulsome public apology from Howard Webb or a formal announcement that he is returning to a less accident-prone life as a sergeant of the South Yorkshire constabulary. Leon Osman might wish to say something, too, about the upraised arm which any observer is entitled to interpret as a fraudulent claim for a penalty after he fell over his own feet. Pete Sixsmith has plenty to say …
I’m a great fan of pantomime and have, over the years, seen some good ones: The Krankies (I didn’t attend the post show party, much to the chagrin of Wee Jimmy), Jimmy Clitheroe (in partnership with Charlie Cairolli – that dates me), Boycie from Only Fools and Horses ( an excellent Captain Hook) and The Chuckle Brothers (sheer comic genius).
Paul and Barry, aka the Chuckles, are from Rotherham as is Mr Howard Webb. They are children’s entertainers, unknown outside this country, while Howard is a referee of world renown and has, I believe, refereed a World Cup Final. After his performance today, one wonders how.
He has a record with Sunderland. It was he who gave that ludicrous penalty at The Sports Direct Arena three years ago, when the brutal Steed Malbranque savagely fouled the angelic Steven Taylor. Against that, he missed Seb Larsson’s handball at the SoL earlier this year, so I guess that evened it up.
After his latest debacle, he will have to think long and hard about how he evens things up this time. It may get down to offering up his first born or emigrating to New Caledonia as he has shot his bolt with Sunderland fans.
The draw was probably a fair result. We had two decent, hardworking sides, both with solid defences and both with a lack of goal scoring power. There were two well organised managers who had clearly told their players what was expected of them. Neither goalkeeper was forced into a save nor was it a thrill-a-minute game, although there was some decent approach work by both.
Jack Colback opened his account for the club, finishing off a super move which involved four or five players, Bendtner and Sessegnon being particularly prominent. It took a deflection from Sylvan Distan, but it may well have gone in anyway. We tried to push for the second goal, but Jagielka marshalled them well and they were never in serious danger of being breached.
On the other hand, they missed a couple of half chances in the early stages of the game. After that, they showed little until along came The Wicked Uncle and handed them a point.
By this time, we had had to reorganise our back four. Titus Bramble went off, John O’Shea moved across (and looked so much better than he does at full back) and Kieran Richardson switched to full back. It allowed Colback to come in wide left and to tighten up our midfield, and he did so.
As we came out for the second half, Phil Bardsley remained in the dressing room and Craig Gardner took up the right back position. And didn’t he do well!!! He looked cool, calm and collected, made some excellent interceptions and moved the ball forward really effectively.
The feeling was that under the previous regime, Elmohamady would have taken over from Bardsley and Everton would have romped down that wing. Gardner did so well that Drenthe was withdrawn after persistently failing to better him.
Then up stepped the Pantomime Villain, a veritable Abanazar in the form of Mr Webb. Leon Osman foraged into the box, Cattermole stood off him as Wes Brown prepared to tackle and Osman fell over his own feet as he was about to shoot.
It was as funny as anything Wee Jimmy Krankie did at Darlington Civic all those years ago, a truly great pratfall – but The Great Howardio saw it as deserving of a penalty kick.
Like all great thespians, he took his time before awarding it, making sure that the eyes of the crowd were all fixed on him. Standing like a gundog indicating to its master that a fowl of the feathered variety was nearby, he raised his hand and pointed to the spot.
The crowd howled in derision, our players reached for the sky and Leighton Baines despatched the kick comfortably. Of course, in the “old days” Dixie Dean would have gently rolled the ball to Johnny Mapson, refusing to accept such a ludicrous award – but we live in different times.
From then on, the game was always interesting and both sides had half chances. The Great Howardio withdrew to a supporting role having had his moment of glory and left the players to get on with it. McClean’s introduction pepped us up, but the game meandered to a draw and I suspect that Both O’Neill and Moyes were reasonably content with a point.
It may well have been that Everton would have equalised sooner or later without The Great Howardio once again showing himself up. But, games hinge on these decisions. We were settling down having had to reorganise the back four, the Everton strikers looked as effective as Jimmy Clitheroe and Charlie Cairolli and there was a case to be made that he had cost s two important points.
Martin O’Neill was dignified in his post match appraisal, although I can’t think of many fans who would have been as sanguine as he was.
Had anyone shouted to me “He’s behind you” and had I turned round to face The Great Howardio, there would have been the distinctive splat of custard pie hitting him and dripping down that great bald dome that belongs to a man I once respected as the best referee in the country.
Still, four points from two games and a similar return would be more than welcome from the next two. City looked vulnerable at West Brom, while Phil Dowd almost upstaged The Great Howardio when he reduced Wigan to 10 men. Almost, but not quite – along with The Chuckle Brothers, Howard remains Rotherham’s greatest contribution to base comedy.
* When Monsieur Salut last looked, the incident could still be seen at this YouTube link. And here …