Referee Takes Centre Stage as Sunderland and Luton Draw

Promotion chasers Sunderland and Luton Town played out an eventful 1-1 draw at the Stadium of Light on Saturday. In front of a crowd of almost 38,000, a first-half strike from Chris Maguire gave the home side the lead. A second-half penalty for the visitors levelled the scores. However, many of the crowd in attendance were talking about the performance of the referee who, in many eyes, both home and away, spoiled a potentially exciting, competitive game.

Referee Takes Centre Stage in Sunderland Draw

“He had a poor game today and I think I’m allowed to say that, that’s my opinion and a lot of other peoples. Not just the big decisions either.” – Sunderland manager Jack Ross

“It was very, very eventful. “He (Danny Hylton) will miss four games, he’s distraught in there, saying it wasn’t intentional, so we’ll look at it and hopefully do something about it.” – Luton Town caretaker manager Mick Harford

Potential For an Excellent Game

Both sides went into this game looking for the win. A victory for Sunderland would see them leapfrog the Hatters and into second place. A win would give them a four-point cushion over their hosts.

From the off, both sides looked to attack and Luton came the closest in the opening stages. Black Cats keeper Jon McLaughlin produced several excellent saves. Sunderland grew into the game and slowly began to cause the visitors problems in defence. On 16 minutes, Chris Maguire gave the home side the lead. The game stayed this way until half-time but both teams continued to threaten.

Step Up Lee Probert

Referee for the day Lee Probert took the second half as his time to take centre stage. The Premier League official endured a nightmare time as controversial decision followed controversial decision.

Controversy One

On 67 minutes, the referee gave Luton a penalty. A long range shot came back off the post. As Sunderland defenders went to clear and a Luton attacker attempted to score and the referee saw something which no one else in the crowd saw and gave a spot kick.

Reports since have produced two possibilities for him giving the penalty. One was for a foul on the Luton player, the other was for a handball. Both are open to opinion; however, it appeared that there was no foul, just two players attempting to get to the ball first and if it was a handball, the player knew nothing about it. Home fans, away fans and both sets of players looked bemused by the decision. Until the ball was placed on the spot some still didn’t know which way the decision had gone.

Controversy Two

The resulting penalty was a good one and dispatched with relative ease. However, the player who scored, James Collins, ran straight to the Sunderland fans to celebrate, gesturing to them and cupping his ears. This was inciting the crowd and should have been punished by a yellow card. The referee watched the incident play out with stewards and the police having to step in for a short time.

Controversy Three

Soon after Luton’s equaliser, their striker Danny Hylton was sent off. Hylton and Sunderland defender Jack Baldwin went to challenge for a header. Referee Probert immediately showed a red card. It is believed that the card was shown for an elbow, but both managers were in agreement that a yellow card would have sufficed. Luton caretaker boss Mick Harford advised that they will appeal the decision.

Harford said: “I’ve been in his position, absolutely, lots of times, when you back in and your arm goes up, it looked like to me that it wasn’t intentional. He will miss four games, he’s distraught in there, saying it wasn’t intentional, so we’ll look at it and hopefully do something about it”

Controversy Four

In the last minutes of the game, both teams found themselves down to ten men as  Sunderland’s Chris Maguire sent off for an apparent stamp. Again, both sets of fans and players were bemused by the decision. A foul was committed, this is not up for debate, therefore, a yellow card would have been sufficient. However, Probert, after consulting his assistant, saw a different view and gave a straight red card.

Jack Ross said: “Chris Maguire, the fourth official tells me he was sent off for a stamp, which he didn’t do. What I’ve seen and what the fourth official has told me, it doesn’t marry up.”

Other decisions throughout the game appeared to baffle those on the pitch and in the stands. It was an eventful game, to say the least. Sadly, for the wrong reasons, fans, players, managers and the media are mainly talking about the referee. The best referee performances are the ones where you hardly notice them.

A Tough Job

They have a tough and, at times, thankless job to do. All we want (fans, players, media etc), though, is consistency. Unfortunately, especially in the lower leagues, it is rare we see this.

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