NEIL Lennon eviscerated referee Bobby Madden after a controversial performance by the official did much to shape the outcome of yesterday’s 1-1 draw between St Mirren and Celtic.
The result means Celtic, who have moved 13 points clear at the top, can win the Scottish Premier League title this weekend, if they defeat Hibernian and Motherwell are at the same time beaten by St Mirren. However, this possibility seemed far from Lennon’s thoughts yesterday at St Mirren Park as he ranked Madden’s display as “the most appalling refereeing performance I have seen for a long, long time”.
Lennon said he could barely believe that one official “could get so many decisions so wrong”.
The manager viewed it as further evidence of a broader slipping in standards of refereeing in Scotland, as he returned to a theme that dominated his first full season as Celtic manager. Lennon sounded eager to make contact with John Fleming, the head of refereeing development, at the earliest opportunity. “I’d like to think I’ll have a chat with John, but I’d think John will have plenty of phone calls tonight from a lot of people and plenty of emails to answer, too,” he said.
“I am concerned about the standard of refereeing,” he added. “I’ve kept my counsel on it for a couple of months but there have been some really bizarre decisions, not just against my team but in the game generally. They have baffled me.
“It’s just been in the last couple of months but today has been by far the most blatant performance I have seen,” he added. “It was really poor.”
According to Lennon, Madden was poor for both sides, although the Celtic manager’s main gripe concerned the straight red card that was shown to Victor Wanyama, ten minutes after half-time. The midfielder was sent off for what Madden interpreted as a dangerous tackle on Paul McGowan, who later scored St Mirren’s equaliser from the penalty spot after another contentious decision.
Emilio Izaguirre’s challenge on Ismael Goncalves on 80 minutes looked to have occurred outside the box, and there was doubt whether contact had even been made. Madden was accused of trying to balance things up after he missed a hand-ball offence by Georgios Samaras in the first half. “Two wrongs don’t make a right so if he has done that then it’s even worse,” said Lennon. “The sending off is ridiculous and it’s changed the game.” The Celtic manager confirmed that the club will be appealing the red card.
“For me, St Mirren should have had a penalty,” Lennon added. “It was a clear handball. You don’t get many as clear-cut as that, so we dodged a bullet there. Then I see [Beram] Kayal getting wrestled into the advertising hoardings in front of the linesman and no free kick is given. Two seconds later, I’ve got a man sent off for nothing.
“The penalty St Mirren did get was outside the box and there was no contact. I’m delighted we got a point out of it, but there is no doubt the referee’s decisions ruined what could have potentially been a very good game. The sending-off changed the course of the game – and ruined it as a spectacle. Their dug-out was claiming everything. Anything that went against them, they were up in arms about it. Maybe that affected the referee’s performance, I don’t know.”
Danny Lennon, one of the occupants of that dug-out, was not quite as outspoken as his namesake afterwards, although he did admit he was “a wee bit irate” at St Mirren having a goal chalked off in the first half, after Paul Dummett was judged to have fouled goalkeeper Fraser Forster.
“There were a lot of talking points and key moments within the game but I’d rather concentrate and speak about the good things that happened,” said Lennon, on the day St Mirren paraded the League Cup won just over a fortnight ago.
“Managers, players, supporters – we can all have bad days, the same with officials,” he added. “We know the difficult job they have. Once they sit back and watch that I believe they’ll pick up one or two things that they can improve on.”