Date: 8th October 2012 at 9:43am
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Referees are in a position to ruin any game of football. They can do this in a number of ways – by overlooking legitimate goals; by awarding goals which shouldn’t be allowed; by constantly whistling and thus disrupting the rhythm of the match etc etc etc. Saturday at the Globe Arena Stuart Attwell put on a display which was simply unacceptable at any level of soccer: he got decision after decision wrong, played advantage when there wasn’t any to be had; let things go which no half-decent official would ever do and simply failed to impose any sort of consistency or common sense on the contest at any point. It makes you wonder if this gentleman has ever actually played the game – he struck this commentator at least as being as clueless about it as I personally am about the rules of baseball or lacrosse, for example.

The die was cast right from the start when large, aggressive Burton centre forward Justin Richards fouled large, aggressive Morecambe forward Richard Brodie when the first whistle was sounded by blocking his attempted run into the visitors’ half. This admittedly happened off the ball but neither Mr Attwell nor his similarly apparently myopic assistants clearly even noticed what happened.

In the absence of the suspended Kevin Ellison, the one person on the home team that nobody with any sense would want to tangle with is Richard Brodie and his retribution was swift. Every time Burton got a throw-in, Richards found himself the meat in the sandwich between Morecambe’s number ten and his normal marker, Andrew Wright. Yet despite the Brewers’ Number Nine constantly and understandably complaining to the referee about this, the match official kept letting Morecambe get away with it until about the fourth time they fouled Richards, when he finally had a word with Brodie and stopped it. After seventeen minutes, Mr Attwell stopped the game to deliver a finger-wagging to the smallest player on the field. Jack Redshaw had been trying to impede the movement of visiting goalkeeper Stuart Tomlinson by standing right in front of him during a corner kick. Ironically, Redshaw got the worst of this – a defender whose elbow was level with Redshaw’s head had already manhandled him out of the way and Tomlinson himself had pushed Morecambe’s diminutive number 27 more than once in a manner which was actually quite comical: there was no need for any intervention by the referee. There WAS a need for intervention by the referee during the second half, however, when Burton substitute Adi Yussuf used either a fist or an elbow to literally flatten Morecambe Captain Will Haining as they both challenged for the ball after 62 minutes. That was the end of Haining’s match and it should have been the end of Yussuf’s too – only the referee and presumably the linesman nearest to where the offence took place seemed to miss what happened. And so it went on: the home side could have pinched the game right at the end with a move which included a very obvious handball by Gary McDonald – once again, the referee was probably the only person in the ground who failed to notice it. Scottish referees are sponsored by Specsavers: failing re-education in Siberia, perhaps Stuart Attwell’s next stop should be north of the Border…

As far as the game was concerned, this was far from being a bore draw and – despite the best efforts of the man with the whistle in the middle – both teams contributed to some bright progressive football on a beautifully sunny day by the shores of Morecambe Bay. Only a minute was on the clock when Brodie forced a corner on Burton’s right hand side from a free kick which the visiting defence struggled to clear. Six minutes later, Redshaw brilliantly played-in Andy Fleming only for the Brewers to concede another corner. As Tomlinson continually loudly encouraged his defence to “GET OUT”, Brodie came closest to opening the scoring when he just failed to connect with a clever cross by McDonald from the edge of the penalty area after nine minutes. Just seconds later, Nick Fenton headed narrowly wide following a corner from the Morecambe right. With nearly a quarter of an hour gone, Burton gave the ball needlessly away and only a good block stopped Stuart Drummond at least testing the visiting goalkeeper with an instant shot. Although the Shrimps were clearly on top at this point, they did not have things all their own way. After seventeen minutes, the Brewers’ outstanding player Jacques Maghoma produced a wicked shot out of nothing which wasn’t too far away and just two minutes later, the visitors won their first corner kick of the afternoon. At the other end, Redshaw soon wriggled his way into the Brewers’ penalty area again and the visitors were once more forced into conceding a corner kick from which nothing came.

Burton came closest to scoring during the first half when Maghoma produced a fine save from a very assured-looking Andreas Arestidou in the home goal following a free-kick maybe 35 yards away from goal. The same two players were involved again two minutes later when the goalkeeper comfortably saved a decent shot from the visiting number 19, who was instrumental again shortly afterwards when his pin-point cross was only just missed by Justin Richards’ head. Burton continued with a brief period of pressure around the half-hour mark, with football ping-pong ensuing in the Shrimps’ penalty area after a corner from the Brewers’ right which was shortly followed by a half-chance which saw the ball go ballooning high over the Morecambe crossbar. The home team had the last of the chances of the first half, though, when McDonald ran round the Burton defence to his right and headed over the bar following a free-kick: this was obviously a rehearsed routine and there is a suspicion that McDonald’s header was actually supposed to be a cross.

The second half opened with Arestidou confidently catching a corner from his right within the first minute. Two minutes later, the impressive Lewis Allesandra cleverly played Brodie in only for the on-loan forward to draw Tomlinson and then hit the side netting with a hopeful shot when a cross would have been more productive for his team. He tried again with almost fifty minutes gone only to see his shot blocked. Further pressure from the home side led to a corner kick which Tomlinson pushed away only to see more ping-pong ensue as the visitors rode their luck. The next chance once again followed one of Mr Attwell’s bizarre decisions. He awarded the Shrimps a free-kick for an innocuous challenge on Brodie near the half way line. Haining took this and Morecambe’s number ten yet again found the ball at his feet before delivering a fine cross into the Brewers’ penalty area which was cleared for a corner. From this, at the second attempt, Fleming delivered a cross which was finally bundled past the post to Tomlinson`s left for a goal-kick. Shortly after this, what might have been the turning-point of the game occurred when Haining had to leave the field but Yussuf stayed on. To celebrate, one of his team-mates left his foot in after a really crude lunge at McDonald which the Morecambe midfielder – luckily for him – had clearly anticipated. The referee, standing just a few feet away, did nothing. Yet again. With seventy-one minutes gone, Allesandra produced a further moment of genuine class when his shot went just over the bar after brilliant approach play following another corner which Burton had only half-cleared. He missed again, shooting just to the right of the Brewers` goal with just ten minutes left. Panic stations briefly ensued in the visitors` rearguard after 81 minutes as Morecambe attacked down the right and just two minutes later Redshaw spoilt a mazy run into Albion`s area by blasting the ball wildly into the stand. With just three minutes left on the clock, Mr Attwell once more did nothing when Andy Fleming was literally flattened by another crude tackle by the visitors. Undeterred, Allesandra produced the best skill of the second period in the eighty-fourth minute when he danced through the Burton defence and lobbed their advancing keeper – the ball cleared the bar as well as Tomlinson as the Brewers lived to fight another day.

This was quite a feisty performance by Albion and four of their players were booked. They are sponsored by brewing company Ind Coope which was once owned by Carlsberg. Carlsberg don’t do football but if they did, it would probably be… Well, probably NOT be Burton Albion in all truth. But Manager Gary Rowett must be happy with a point and on today’s performance, there is no hint of the dramatic loss of form of the sort that saw them struggle so badly towards the end of last season. Jim Bentley probably sees today’s game as two points lost rather than one gained but – given his team’s usually dire performances at the Globe, he must be relieved that they played quite well and at least didn’t lose. Morecambe remain in seventeenth position in League Two; Burton slip one place to seventh, still in the play-off positions.

Morecambe: 25 Andreas Arestidou; 2 Nick Fenton; 6 Will Haining (C) (7 Izak Reid 64 mins); 15 Chris McCready; 16 Stewart Drummond; 8 Andrew Wright (Y); 9 Lewis Allesandra; 10 Richard Brodie (14 Jordan Burrow 79 mins); 17 Andy Fleming; 18 Gary McDonald; 27 Jack Redshaw.
Substitutes not used: 24 James Short; 20 Joe Mwasile; 19 Joe McGee; 29 Will Bell.

Burton Albion: 13 Stuart Tomlinson; 5 Zander Diamond (C); 8 Robbie Weir (Y); 9 Justin Richards; 14 Damien McCrory (Y); 18 Matt Paterson (Y) (12 Adi Yussuf (Y) 56 mins); 19 Jacques Maghoma; 20 Anthony O`Connor (4 Nathan Stanton 71 minutes); 23 Lee Bell; 24 Rob Kiernan; 26 Luke Rooney (22 Jack Dyer 68 mins).
Substitutes not used: 1 Ross Atkins; 2 Aaron Webster; 7 Cleveland Taylor; 29 Billy Kee.

Ref: Stuart Attwell

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