HIBERNIAN manager Pat Fenlon has called on match officials to explain their decisions publicly after referee Euan Norris failed to award a legitimate Leigh Griffiths goal yesterday.
The Edinburgh derby at Easter Road ended in a 0-0 stalemate, but Griffiths’ 35-yard free-kick was shown by television replays to have been over the line by a couple of feet before rebounding into play. Norris and assistant referee Raymond White appeared to have the briefest of consultations before the former ruled that a goal had not, in fact, been scored.
The incident was the main talking point of an otherwise dull game and was the worst refereeing decision that many spectators could remember seeing. It even led to bookmaker McBookie paying out on all Leigh Griffiths first goalscorer bets.
Fenlon, however, argued that another very recent call was just as bad – the decision by Alan Muir two weeks ago to give Dundee United a penalty when Hibs defender Ryan McGivern had tripped Gary Mackay-Steven outside the box. Johnny Russell’s spot-kick earned United a point and that result, combined with yesterday’s, could have a big bearing on whether or not Hibs get into the SPL top six.
“That’s four big points that we’ve lost rather than dropped,” Fenlon argued, “so I’m desperately disappointed with that decision and the decision at Dundee United.
“I won’t hammer referees, but the one thing I would ask is that they should be coming out to explain decisions. Those two decisions could prove very costly and I said that to the referee on the pitch at the end there. They can cost people places and money, so there’s a lot at stake.
“If it’s a case where it’s close to the line, okay, but this was nearly in the back of the net, plus the ball is yellow, which is easier to see. I can’t do anything about it so I’m not going to get too het up. The game was very, very tight and it was going to take something special to decide it.”
Fenlon accepted that, from his own position by the side of the pitch, he had been unable to determine whether the ball had fully crossed the line but he argued that, while better-placed officials continue to make such bad mistakes, introducing goal-line technology had to be seriously considered.
“It’s difficult to see from where we’re situated but I thought, from the reaction of Leigh and the way he celebrated, that it was a goal. I don’t know whether the linesman has bottled it or whether he’s not in line. I’d like to see that.
“I’ve just seen the still of where the ball ends up. I’m not sure if it’s his position. What the referee said to some of the players at the end was that, if he’s not sure, he can’t give it. Well, once he has a look at that again, I’m sure he’ll change his opinion.
“I think when you look at the possibility of what it can cost clubs, you have to weigh it [goal-line technology] up and see where the balance is.”
Speaking on television immediately after the match, Griffiths suggested that even Hearts’ captain had accepted the ball had crossed the line. “I spoke to Andy Webster and he told me it was a yard over the line,” he said.
“I looked at the linesman’s position and he was standing at the edge of the 18-yard box, but the ref said he was in line with the last defender. I spoke to him nicely and ran over and asked if he had to look at his position, but he told me the linesman was standing in line with the last defender. I can’t say any more until I’ve seen the replay.
Hearts goalkeeper Jamie MacDonald accepted that Hibs might consider themselves unfortunate to have been denied the goal, but argued that such mistakes evened themselves out. “I’ve not seen it again – and I didn’t see it at the time,” he said.
“I was clutching fresh air, hoping for the best. It was a good strike. The score says nil-nil, so it wasn’t in. The most important man didn’t see it cross the line.
“Goal-line technology? No chance. Unless it’s the other way about. If I’d saved it and he’d given a goal, maybe,” he added with a smile.
“Look, it happens, it’s part and parcel of football. It’s maybe a bit of luck that we’ve deserved. There have been a lot of instances this year when luck has gone against us, so we’ll take it. At the other end, we should have had a penalty when Callum Tapping was fouled, so does it even itself out? You look at it that way.”