POOR Howard Webb has produced some below-par performances in Sunderland games and the referee was under fire again on Saturday at the Stadium of Light.
Not that the fire was intense for “England’s top referee”; Wigan boss Roberto Martinez – already facing an FA rap for criticism of Northumberland ref Michael Oliver – necessarily had to choose his words carefully.
But once again, the Spaniard felt his side crucially did not get the rub of the green from an official.
“I thought the referee had a difficult day,” he said, as diplomatically as he could.
“The sending off of Jordi Gomez was harsh and it changed the game and that was one of several strange decisions he made during the game.
“For the sending off, Danny Rose made a strong touch and lost control and then the ball is divided – Jordi tackles as a striker tackles, but he never leaves the ground.
“You can understand why the referee gave it, but then what upsets me is that Seb Larsson makes a worst challenge later in the game and doesn’t even get a yellow!
“It’s not the consistency you want – if he decides to give a red for one, he should give a red for the other.”
Webb found support from an unexpected quarter – from Sunderland manager Martin O’Neill, previously infuriated by the same referee’s decision to give a Boxing Day penalty to Everton at the Stadium of Light for a foul that never was.
He said: “My first thought was that it looked a bit harsh, but, looking back at it, I’m not so sure the referee had much choice.
“Whether Roberto agrees or disagrees with the sending off, I think he’d agree it changed the dynamic of the game.
“We scored soon after that and it gave us impetus, a lot of impetus.”
This was perhaps the key to the Wigan boss’s dissatisfaction, the knowledge that, but for the dismissal, his side might have drawn or even won the game.
He said: “In the first half, we didn’t look like a team that had just experienced two defeats in the league.
“We were patient and we created three outstanding chances, which speaks volumes of our performance because this Sunderland side defends really well and rarely gets exposed.
“The sending off in the second half affected us. Perhaps too much.
“But we still finished the game with Sunderland having had only one shot on target and for them to take all three points is a real disappointment because we defended well and could only see them getting a goal from a dead-ball situation.
“It is frustrating to go away with nothing because there were plenty of times when we looked dangerous.
“And the opportunities we created in the first half were as good as you’ll see created anywhere. It was the hallmark of a confident side.”