This is undoubtedly violent conduct and should be punished with a red card. Muirhead makes a closed fist and forcefully swings it into, what appears to be, the nether-regions of Bates.
The only explanation as to why referee Craig Thomson does not produce a red card is that he didn’t get a full view of the incident.
None of the replays show exactly where the match official is looking when the contact is made. We get a view of the area Thomson is standing in (Image One) but that’s only once Bates has already hit the deck. He could have been looking elsewhere and was attracted to the incident when Bates went down.
There was a similar incident involving the Rangers defender during the recent win over St Johnstone. Chris Kane kicked Bates in the back of the leg off the ball and only received a booking when a red card should have been the punishment. In that instance I could only reason that, because it happened quite quickly (if you watch the incident in real time without the replays), the referee didn’t see the kick - or didn’t appreciate how deliberate it was - and instead booked Kane for barging into his opponent.
In this case it’s hard to fathom why Thomson has booked Muirhead. Either he sees it and should give a red card or he doesn’t see it, in which case he can’t take any action.
All I can reason is that he only sees it out of the corner of his eye and thinks it’s a push to the stomach rather than a cheeky low blow. Regardless, it was the wrong call.
• Craig Anderson is a former fully qualified referee. He is also the man behind SPL Stats on Twitter.