REFEREE Robert Madley’s decision to dismiss Kieran Trippier in Burnley’s 1-0 defeat to Charlton Athletic should give Sepp Blatter further food for thought.
While the FIFA president continues to rack his brain over the obscure debate surrounding goalline technology, the world’s governing body could also work on clearing up the contentious, and often controversial, topic of handling the ball.
The Clarets full-back looked to have been the hero when thwarting Rob Hulse and Johnnie Jackson in quick succession, but after Danny Haynes crashed a header against the bar from the follow-up,0 the West Yorkshire referee pulled back play, awarded a penalty, and produced a red card, much to the amazement and disbelief of everyone within Turf Moor.
The FIFA guidelines clearly state that handling the ball involves a deliberate act of a player making contact with the ball with his hand, or arm, with the referee taking in to account the movement of the hand towards the ball and the distance between the opponent and the ball.
The significant term to take into consideration is ‘deliberate’.
When Trippier blocked Hulse’s left-footed drive on the line after quarter-of-an-hour, it was debatable as to whether the ball even struck his arm, with appeals incredibly muted, but there was certainly no intention if it did, with his arms in a natural position by his side.
If Madley had spotted an ‘accidental’ infringement, with Trippier denying the opposing team a goal, then should a caution have sufficed?
Take into account similar incidents at the Madejski Stadium and the Hawthornes, where Sean Morrison and Jonas Olsson escaped punishment for seemingly handling Nikica Jelavic’s and Eden Hazard’s respective attempts.
But that moment of uncertainty sparked one of the most significant performances to date under new boss Sean Dyche.
It was a display that even cast victories over Wolves and Leeds into the shadows as the Clarets showed an impetuous fighting spirit, an untarnished unity, energy, desire and endeavour.
The turning point arose after Chris McCann and leading scorer Charlie Austin had chances to break the deadlock.
The Dubliner hoisted an effort over the bar from 25 yards when benefiting from goalkeeper Ben Hamer’s unconvincing clearance, while Austin headed wide from the angle of the six-yard box after meeting Trippier’s inviting centre.
In all fairness, the Addicks’ build up to the spot-kick was swift and penetrative.
Bradley Pritchard fed the ball into a pocket of space for Hulse, who had coasted goalside of McCann, and as the striker entered the box, he cut inside Jason Shackell, before drilling goalwards left-footed.
Trippier raced to the line instinctively to block, an action he was later penalised for, before thwarting Jackson’s close range rebound while Haynes watched his header cannon back off the bar from the loose ball.
Jackson stepped up from 12 yards, but was denied by a superb save low to his right from Lee Grant, who turned the ball around the post before punching the air in jubilation.
Dyche was forced into a change, with Dean Marney moving to right back while transforming from a 4-2-3-1 to a flatter, more rigid 4-4-1.
And regardless of their one-man disadvantage, the home side refused to lose their discipline and limited their opponents for the majority.
Hamer claimed Martin Paterson’s stinging drive from the edge of the box after Haynes had gifted the striker possession and Brian Stock went even closer, forcing Hamer into a smart save with a rifled effort from 30 yards.
From the resulting corner, swung in by Junior Stanislas, Michael Duff was denied by the legs of the visiting keeper at the back post.
Madley failed to bow down to vociferous cries for a penalty at the other end as former Claret Leon Cort, under pressure from Paterson, stooped low to meet Duff’s hopeful pass forward which seemingly struck an arm just inside the box.
The visitors had largely been restricted to speculative drives from distance, but after Stanislas inexplicably presented Salim Kerkar with possession, Haynes was fed in to the area and forced Grant into an excellent stop, firing through the legs of Shackell and across the Burnley stopper left-footed.
The game could have been reduced to 10-a-side when Hulse’s flailing elbow caught Shackell, following an aerial battle.
Madley had to decide whether the incident was careless, reckless, or committed using excessive force, eventually opting for the former, as Hulse, bizarrely, avoided a card.
Haynes and Hulse both went close with headers as the first-half came to a close, both from teasing Kerkar crosses, with the first glancing wide before the latter couldn’t find a way beyond Shackell, who blocked well.
After the break, Dyche continued to enthusiastically conduct from the sidelines, urging his 10-man orchestra to press high up the pitch.
And the tactic almost paid off when Austin, who battled tremendously throughout, stole the ball off Egert Jonsson and closed in on goal, but bent an effort around the post.
The striker, looking to surpass Peter McKay’s record from 1955 of scoring in six consecutive home games, went close again moments later when glancing wide from Marney’s enticing cross.
However, the Clarets were denied a fourth successive clean sheet on home soil when Chris Powell’s side broke the deadlock in the 69th minute.
Jackson’s diagonal cross found Hulse, who towered above Danny Lafferty, and the forward’s header was nodded back across Grant and in to the far corner by Haynes. But, undeterred, the home side continued to push, with Dyche introducing Danny Ings and David Edgar for Stanislas and Lafferty, reverting to a 3-5-1 with Marney ushered forward in to midfield.
The hosts dominated possession, though had little joy in the final third as Cort and Michael Morrison proved impenetrable at the back.
McCann tested Hamer from distance, before Sam Vokes was introduced for added firepower.
The home side committed players forward in search of an equaliser, but it was the visitors, who almost had the final say, when substitute Ricardo Fuller sprang the counter-attack, only to be snuffed out by an excellent recovering challenge by McCann.