‘It’s not a red card challenge and never is that a penalty’ – Ex Premier League referee Halsey voices sympathy for Ipswich Town

Former Premier League referee Mark Halsey (inset) says the two big decisions which went against Ipsw

Former Premier League referee Mark Halsey (inset) says the two big decisions which went against Ipswich Town in their 2-1 defeat at Sunderland were incorrect. Photos: PA/Pagepix - Credit: Archant

Former Premier League referee Mark Halsey believes Ipswich Town were on the end of two poor decisions in Tuesday night’s 2-1 League One defeat at Sunderland.

Referee Peter Wright showed Andre Dozzell a straight red card in the 72nd minute for a tackle on Grant Leadbitter when the score was 1-1.

He then made an equally controversial call to award Sunderland a game winning penalty in the 85th minute when Toto Nsiala’s clearing header hit team-mate Mark McGuinness on the arm from close-range.

Blues manager Paul Lambert was left livid by the decisions after the game, while Black Cats boss Phil Parkinson claimed both were the correct calls.

“It’s not a red card challenge,” said Halsey, who refereed in the Premier League from 1999 to 2013. “It’s arguably reckless, but if he’d have only been cautioned then I don’t think anybody would have complained. Did he endanger the opponent’s safety? Did he use excessive force? I don’t think so.

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“For me, he was guessing on that one and got it wrong. You never guess as a referee. If you miss an incident or you’re not sure then you don’t give it, especially when it comes to game-changing events like penalties and red cards.”

Ipswich appealed the red card, but that has been rejected and Dozzell will now serve a three-game suspension.

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“When a club appeals then the onus is on them to provide conclusive evidence that the referee made a clear and obvious error,” said Halsey. “It looks like Ipswich weren’t able to do that with the lack of camera angles, so that’s why the FA have upheld the original decision.

“We saw Everton argue recently that the punishment didn’t fit the crime following Lucas Digne’s red card and he subsequently got his ban reduced to one game. I wonder if Ipswich could’ve asked for something similar?”

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Halsey then moved on to his analysis of the penalty award.

He said: “As for the handball, I don’t know how he’s given that! Never in a million years was it a penalty. Was it a deliberate act? No. Was his arm in an unnatural position? No. The rules also state that if the ball hits the arm off of another player in close proximity then it’s not handball. Well he looked pretty close to his team-mate to me.

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“The ‘unnatural arm’ position is the one that gets me. When you jump you need to use your arms to elevate and when you come down then your arms are all over the place for a split second. That’s natural. It would be unnatural if players started trying to defend with their arms pinned to their sides or behind their backs.

“The ‘unnatural position’ law is for when things like John Terry used to throw up his arms in the air to make himself bigger like a goalkeeper. Not for anything else.

“So that incident on Tuesday night doesn’t meet the criteria laid down in Law 12. I really don’t know what he was looking at when he gave that. It’s not a handball under the laws of the game – 110%. It’s a very, very, very poor decision. It was incorrect.”

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Halsey added: “Unfortunately the standard of officiating is not the best across all divisions at the moment. It’s dropping alarmingly.

“I understand the frustration of your manager because two game-changing decisions had a big bearing on the result.

“I always got on well with him. We had a few run-ins when he was at Aston Villa, but in general he was fine. He needs to ask for the referee’s report and get a full explanation.

“The PGMOL needs to show more leadership and direction.”

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Speaking earlier, Lambert said: “I spoke to Mike Jones (head of referees) right away after the game and he got the footage. Mike phoned me back and in his opinion it was never a red card – and that’s the head of referees. I’ve spoken to others who have been right at the top of the game in the Premier League and it was never a red card.

“Andre was pushed at the beginning. There was no force in it, no speed in it, so to get a red card for that is ridiculous. It’s incredible, especially when you’re getting feedback from the top guys.

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“I spoke to Mike after the Lincoln game as well and they admitted that (penalty award against Toto Nsiala) was the wrong decision too. In the last three weeks we’ve had some massive decisions go against us which have proved unbelievable game-changers because we were playing really well in both games.

“We’re getting top people to look at these and everyone agreed they weren’t red cards or penalties.

“I think the disparity between the standard of referees in Premier League and where we are is big, but you still expect them to get the big moments in games right.”

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