Why Scott Bain was rightly sent off in the Dundee derby

The latest edition of Ref Review looks at Steven McLean’s decision to send off Scott Bain after the Dundee goalkeeper brought down Billy Mckay inside the penalty area.

The latest edition of Ref Review looks at Steven McLean’s decision to send off Scott Bain after the Dundee goalkeeper brought down Billy Mckay inside the penalty area.

There’s no such thing as “last man” in the rulebook. This was a widely, and wrongly, used interpretation among football onlookers when judging professional fouls.

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Thankfully, its use in the everyday football narrative is diminishing, as fans increasingly recognise “clear and obvious goalscoring opportunity” to be the true factor on how to judge whether a foul in or around the penalty area deserves a red card.

On this occasion, referee Steven McLean was well within his rights to send off Scott Bain for his penalty foul on Billy Mckay. It was not a cut and dried red card, and at full speed it’s easy to see why others have disagreed with the decision. However, after analysing further, it seems the whistler got this one correct.

Prior to the foul, McLean deserves credit for getting himself into a great position to see any contact. The ball went from one end of the park to the other very quickly, and we can see in Image One (A) that he was just over the halfway line when the ball made it to Mckay. At this point he has at least three players between him and the ball, obscuring his view. However, by the time of the contact in Image One (B), he has moved across to give himself a good head-on view of the incident. This helps him in terms of being able to see the contact, and also to determine the colour of the card.

The foul itself is an easy decision to make. We can see from Image Two (below) that Mckay gets to the ball before Bain and it is well past the keeper before he brings Mckay down. It’s a definite penalty. The right half of Image Two also highlights how great a position McLean has got himself in, as you can see him in the background.

In terms of determining whether or not we believe this to be a clear and obvious goalscoring opportunity, we want to think about where the player would have been had the foul not been committed. In Image Three (below) we give our best guess. You could argue a yard or so either way, but that’s roughly where Mckay would have been had Bain not impeded him.

This is not a super easy chance. The ball was still moving at a reasonable speed, and both the ball and player were going away from goal, making it more difficult for him to get his foot around it and hit the target. However, it’s hard to argue that it’s not a clear and obvious goalscoring opportunity. You’d still expect him to score more often than not, and the defender isn’t really in that great a covering position. Therefore, McLean was correct.

Were the exact same foul committed this time next season, it would not be a red card. The rule will be changed, putting an end to the “double jeopardy” punishment for players committing professional fouls inside the penalty area. From the beginning of next season, Bain would have only been booked for such a challenge.

Derek Rae highlighted this on the BT Sport commentary, but what the esteemed announcer didn’t mention was that it only goes for fouls of this nature, when an honest attempt has been made to play the ball. Deliberate fouls, along with pushing, shirt tugs and handballs, can all still be punished with a red card in addition to a penalty.

• Craig Anderson is a former fully qualified referee. He is also the man behind SPLStats on Twitter.

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