Football ‘would benefit from crackdown on penalty box pulling’

Joe Shaughnessy celebrates after putting St Johnstone 3-0 up. Picture: Michael Gillen

Joe Shaughnessy celebrates after putting St Johnstone 3-0 up. Picture: Michael Gillen

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St Johnstone defender Joe Shaughnessy insists he would welcome a universal crackdown on pulling and pushing inside the penalty area after his side were awarded three spot-kicks in one half against BretFred League Cup opponents Falkirk.

Danny Swanson tucked away his two attempts from 10 yards after Liam Craig had the initial penalty saved by Danny Rogers which, ironically, was the only decision of the three Falkirk didn’t view as contentious.

Shaughnessy himself was fouled for the next award, when Paul Watson wrapped his arms around the defender’s waist at a corner. Later in the half Luke Leahy was whistled for pulling the shirt of Graeme Cummins. Neither player went to ground at either foul, leading many to speculate that referees were finally cracking down on the widespread shenanigans you see inside the penalty area in almost every match. If that is to be the case, Shaughnessy believes football would be the ultimate winner.

“Just give penalties and people will stop doing it. It would be better if they did that because everyone would stop fouling. You’d get a fair chance of getting to the ball,” said the Irish defender, who did just that later in the game with a close range finish following a set-piece to secure the win.

“After he [referee Bobby Madden] gave the three penalties I think everyone was more aware in the second half not to give him any excuse. It’ll be better for the game if he does that.

“As long as the referee are consistent in each box then it’s fine with me.”

Falkirk’s biggest gripe was concerning that very point, they didn’t believe Madden had been consistent, as evidenced by his decision to ignore a barge by St Johnstone defender Steven Anderson on John Baird at the other end of the park.

“At one point I didn’t know what was going on,” said John Rankin, who was making his debut for Falkirk after sealing a deal with the Scottish Championship club the day before the match. “I don’t know whether there’s new rules, but I’ve never been involved in a game with three penalties for the one team.

“We’re just looking for consistency, if I’m being honest. It happened today but next week it might be something else. If we’re not allowed to pull in the box then it’s got to the same across the board. If that’s the precedent that they’ve started then it’s got to be maintained over the full season.”

Despite Falkirk’s consternation, the visitors were under no illusions that the better team won on the day.

“St Johnstone don’t get enough credit,” continued Rankin. “They’re a top six side for a reason.”

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