The atmosphere around the ground and the context of what had just occurred leading up to the foul definitely influenced the referee’s decision.
If Scott Brown makes a similar challenge in the first minute before the players or referee or even the crowd have properly warmed up, then he might have got away with it. The ball is there to be won, he’s not leading with two legs and, though he launches himself a little, he’s not that high off the ground or wildly out of control.
Without question it is reckless, which is enough for a yellow card. For a red card, he needs to be using “excessive force”. And in this instance... it’s probably still a red, even in isolation. He comes in at top speed in an area of a park where that challenge is hardly merited. Even without the context, the referee would have been within his rights to issue a red.
Once you take the other factors into account, it makes it a much easier decision. It’s obvious the Celtic captain has been angered by the penalty decision which wrongly went against his side, and this would have led to him into making such a forceful and late challenge just a few yards from the opposition penalty area.
The reaction of the Ross County players (Image One) shows they clearly thought Brown was out to maim, and he does nothing to show remorse for his challenge. With all he knows about the incident, referee Don Robertson is left with no option but to show a red card.
Celtic are set to appeal the decision in order to make Scott Brown eligible to face Rangers at Hampden Park next Sunday. Reports have suggested it may be a risk for the Parkhead club, who may inadvertently extend their players suspension if the SFA deem the appeal to be “frivolous”. This is unlikely to be the case.
Such additional punishment is very rare and Celtic won’t be the first side to appeal a sending off purely to have the player available for the next match. Besides, there’s enough for Celtic to claim it’s just a strong challenge that was a second too late. They won’t win, in all likelihood, but they won’t receive further punishment either.
• Craig Anderson is a former fully qualified referee. He is also the man behind SPL Stats on Twitter.