The Clarke Effect

Is there any chance our referees can go on strike again soon?

The poor wee sensitive souls are getting more and more upset at the constant criticism of them from players, managers, fans and the media alike.

All of it absolutely justified.

After Hearts lost at home at the weekend courtesy of an extremely obvious offside decision, Craig Levein revealed that referee chief John Fleming had told him previously that to help out the linesman his teams should hold a defensive line across the 18 yard box.

Well they did, and they still managed to get the decision wrong. Levein says he won’t talk to Fleming any more because what’s the point. Exactly.

Fleming hates any criticism of his referees, and we heard from him earlier in the season when Kilmarnock were complaining about a farcical sending off that didn’t even get overturned because the referee panel refused to go against their colleague.

I’m not sure what is more worrying though. That our referees and their assistants are so bad that even their boss thinks they need lines on the park to try and get decisions right, or that they still managed to get the decision wrong even with the help of a line!

Having legitimately criticised the decision, former referee Steve Conroy then came out to defend the Tynecastle referee Bobby Madden saying that Levein was out of order and he had vein derogatory to his personality.

No, he rightly criticised his abilities as a referee! It wasn’t personal at all! Something Levein has since pointed out himself in response to Conroy.

That decision wasn’t even the most contentious from Sunday. In our game at Hampden, we got a penalty for a ball headed onto an arm that was outside the box. Andrew Dallas, a referee only because of his name and clearly not his abilities, managed to give another penalty for nothing in midweek which again meant Hearts were screwed, this time out of a win as they drew 2-2 in Perth.

Meanwhile, Steven McLean was at Ibrox giving Aberdeen’s Sam Cosgrove a second yellow card for getting to the ball first and then being kicked, then later giving a second yellow card to Alfredo Morelos for a clear karate chop on Graeme Shinnie who – not for the first time in recent days – made a total meal of it.

He also didn’t give Kyle Lafferty a second yellow card for… well, pick one of several incidents actually. Although Aberdeen still won at Ibrox in midweek, this means Dundee will be hosting a team with Lafferty in it but who shouldn’t have any available strikers due to their ongoing indiscipline.

And then there was our game at Fir Park.

I’m not sure when an elbow to the face became only a yellow card and not a straight red, but we saw it at Fir Park as well when Allan Campbell hit Cristian Gamboa. The second yellow card that should have come later on when Campbell clattered Jonny Hayes never did.

We also had a perfectly good goal chopped off for Filip Benkovic having his shirt pulled by Tom Aldred where the referee decided it was Benkovic doing the fouling for pretty much nothing at all, yet somehow Celtic didn’t get a free kick for Danny Johnson barging Gamboa while he was jumping for a ball. The next thing Johnson did was fire the ball into the net, so that decision cost us two points and the chance to go back top of the league.

While all of this was happening, Kilmarnock were beating Livingston to take that top spot. Yes, they’ve played two games more that we have, but there’s no doubt that Kilmarnock deserve to be there.

Since Steve Clarke took over the helm at Rugby Park last season, their turnaround has been remarkable. They were bottom of the league when he started there, and he not only took them up to eventually finish fifth in the league, but they became a real thorn in our sides as well. Indeed, Celtic have yet to beat Kilmarnock under Clarke.

It’s not as if we haven’t played them! Clarke’s first two games in charge saw him get 1-1 draws at both Ibrox and Celtic Park. We then went to Rugby Park in February and lost 1-0 in a game that probably did enough to get Youssouf Mulumbu his move to us in the summer. The penultimate league game of last season was a goalless draw at Celtic Park, and of course they came from behind to beat us 2-1 at Rugby Park earlier this season.

Two draws and two defeats for us against Clarke’s Kilmarnock is probably our worst record against any team under Brendan Rodgers. I certainly can’t think of another Scottish team that’s been so consistently good against us.

We go into this home game off the back of three consecutive performances where we’ve dominated, scored a goal, and not gone on to make it safe by getting the second goal that our play probably merited.

In Trondheim, we got the 1-0 win we needed, but it felt far more nervy than it should have been. In the League Cup final, we wasted several breaks up the park as Aberdeen pushed up but the closest they came to scoring was when Simunovic hit his own bar. On Wednesday night though our luck ran out and the referee let a foul go in the build up to the equaliser. Our perfectly good second goal being ruled out didn’t help, but we did also have a stonewall penalty that we really should have scored.

It’s games like Wednesday where we really need to be better than the referee or it can cost us. It shouldn’t have to be that way, but I’ve heard quotes from Jock Stein about this so it’s hardly new.

I doubt we’ll get away with a fourth game of not being clinical enough. Not against this Kilmarnock side then we haven’t beaten in four attempts. Not with the partnership of Brophy and Stewart returning from injury to immediate effect in recent games.

Win today and we’ll go back top of the league, at least until Sunday when we could possibly lose it on goal difference again. But winning today is the most important aspect, we’re long overdue a win against Kilmarnock.

And besides, if you want to win the league you really have to beat your title rivals in your home games.

Krys (Twitter @krys1888)

This Post Has 1 Comment

  1. Danny says:

    Should be a good game today and I am looking forward to how we unlock killie’s flat back 8 and score enough goals to make it less never than of late. An excellent appraisal of the week that was and a good read thanks.

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