The latest edition of Ref Review looks at three bad fouls in the opening 27 minutes of Rangers’ victory over Motherwell this weekend and whether referee Wille Collum was correct to issue red cards to Michael O’Halloran and Scott McDonald, but only a yellow to Rob Kiernan.
Firstly, Collum is in a good spot to clearly see all three of the contentious first-half challenges, particularly O’Halloran’s red card where he’s got a clear view about 10 yards away. He’s a little further from McDonald’s red, about 20 yards or so, but the players have parted perfectly to give him a clean view. The same can’t be said of Kiernan’s foul, even though he’s closer in. Emerson Hyndman appears to walk right across his line of sight as contact has been made.
The O’Halloran challenge is a textbook red card and the easiest of the three decisions. Though he does try to withdraw at the last second, it’s only after fully extending his leg towards Motherwell midfielder Carl McHugh (Image One). By bringing his foot down slightly and going into McHugh’s left thigh, the impact is lessened, but there’s still enough force to stop McHugh dead in his tracks. His speed of movement, as O’Halloran tends to do everything at 100mph, means it’s a reckless challenge with use of excessive force.
McDonald’s was a little unusual. On first viewing it seemed a classic example of a referee, troubled by an earlier decision against one side, taking the first opportunity to even things up, but the replays showed that he was spot on.
A player losing the ball and then lunging to try to get it back is always a red flag for an official. Typically, such a player does not have full control of their challenge, and McDonald certainly didn’t as he briefly had both feet off the ground (Image Two).
What makes it a definite red is the nature of the contact. His foot is off the ground, he has a straight leg and he catches Miller on the ankle with his studs.
It doesn’t help that Miller’s foot is planted and McDonald may have got away with it had the Rangers striker been able to hurdle the challenge. Endangering the safety of an opponent is one factor in deciding whether it’s a red, so Miller being able to avoid the challenge may have made it less severe. Given the way he went in, though, it probably wouldn’t have mattered.
Kiernan’s challenge is the least clear-cut of the three, but still a red card worthy offence.
It’s very similar to the McDonald tackle in the sense that it’s a player losing control of the ball and desperate lunging to get it back. At first glance it looks much worse than McDonald’s, as Louis Moult goes flying as a result of the contact.
It’s possible that Collum was focused on where impact was made by each player. McDonald’s is a rather nasty looking attempt as he flies directly into Miller’s standing ankle, while Kiernan has his foot pointed down into the side of Moult’s raised left foot (Image Three). Of the two, Miller was luckier not to be seriously injured.
Even still, Kiernan went in with excessive force and had Rangers not been already down to ten men he may not have been so lucky.
Although referees are supposed to treat each incident on its own merits, it is natural that his thought process will be affected by what has gone before. When making a decision which could potentially reduce a team to nine men inside the first 15 minutes, it is not surprising that the ref is likely to err on the side of caution if there is any doubt whatsoever.
I also should add that on first viewing I thought he got a bit of the ball and played it off Moult - perhaps Collum thought the same.
Overall, it was strange to have three potential red card tackles in the first 27 minutes of what was otherwise a fairly placid game.
• Craig Anderson is a former fully qualified referee. He is also the man behind SPL Stats on Twitter.