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Matt Balmforth’s Top 5 Referee Blunders

This weekend’s FA Cup tie between Portsmouth and Birmingham had its fair share of refereeing controversy. Did Liam Ridgewell’s header cross the line? It sure looked like it did and referee Steve Bennett missed it. Maybe not a huge mistake but it has raised the issue of referee’s blunders. Let’s have a look at the top five.

Watford vs. Reading – Stuart Attwell 2008

Young referee Stuart Attwell was the official in this Championship fixture last season which turned from local derby to outright lunacy. The Warwickshire born referee awarded Reading a goal when the ball never even threatened the Watford goal line yet alone cross it. Resulting from a Stephen Hunt corner the ball bounced around the box before Attwell blew confirming a goal had been scored. In fairness to Attwell, his linesman Nigel Bannister saw the ball go past the post by a couple of feet and declared a goal. A bemused Aidy Boothroyd, then Watford manager was sent to the stand for complaining. He was sacked seven weeks later.

Argentina vs. England – Ali Bin Nasser 1986

The Tunisian referee who missed Maradona’s infamous ‘Hand of God’ goal in the 1986 World Cup quarter final was vilified all over the world for such a shocking decision. Steve Hodges slice clearance which looped up in the air towards England keeper Peter Shilton. Maradona, a full eight inches smaller than Shilton out jumped the goalkeeper and punched the goal into the empty net. Referee Ali Bin Nasser claimed to see nothing and gave the goal. England felt cheated out of a World Cup. The Tunisian referee later claimed that recent haemorrhoid treatment affected his sight and was to blame. Four minutes later Maradona scored quite possibly the greatest goal of all time with his famous darting run and finish.

Croatia vs. Australia – Graham Poll 2006

This referee howler pretty much ended the career of Englishmen Graham Poll after he booked the same player three times during a World Cup match in 2006. The Group F match was a tight affair with the Croatian Josip Simunic booked, before receiving a 2nd yellow card with only a few minutes left on the clock. Yet Poll had accidently put the numbers wrong in his notebook and assumed it was Simunic first yellow. He finally sent off the Croatian defender after giving him what was his third yellow card at the final whistle for dissent. Luckily for Graham Poll Australia only needed a draw to make it through to the knock out stages and did with a 2-2. If Australia lost that match it may well have been very different. Poll never refereed another international game and has since retired.

Crystal Palace vs. Bristol City – Rob Shoebridge 2009

Recently departed Crystal Palace manager Neill Warnock is not exactly know being a referee’s best mate, but he had every right to be livid following the most bizarre of refereeing decisions in the game. On loan striker Freddie Sears scores a goal that bounces off the inside stanchion and bounces out from the back of the net. All the players stop, including Bristol City and start walking towards the halfway line to kick off. Referee Rob Shoebridge didn’t know what all the fuss was about and wanted play to continue. After adamant outbursts from the Crystal Palace players, Shoebridge consulted his linesmen and they both decided a goal had not been scored. It was a shocking decision. Bristol City went on to win the game with a last minute goal. Of all the managers for it to happen to, it had to be Warnock.

Leeds United vs. West Brom – Ray Tinkler 1971

Title chasers Leeds United lost 2-1 due to a howler of a refereeing decision by Ray Tinkler. West Brom’s Tony Brown broke free and squared a ball to the most definitely offside looking Tony Astle to tap in. The linesman initially flagged for offside, yet the referee ignored his call and gave the goal. Leeds United subsequently lost the game and the title to Arsenal just a month later. Fans invaded the pitch in defiance and manager Don Revie pleaded with the linesman to get the referee to change his mind. All to no avail.

Click here to see Stuart Attwell’s unbelievable awarding of Reading a goal.Reading vs. Watford. Phantom Goal.

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