Wednesday pay penalty and it’s not all refs’ fault

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How often do see you see a referee change his mind about a penalty decision?

Very rarely, I used to think.

The man in black would normally point to the spot straight away and that was that. There was no point in anybody trying to get him to alter course.

But twice in the last three games, a ref’s behaviour has been a source of frustration to the Owls, in addition to that caused by their inability to defend firmly enough - the main reason why they have been losing games, I hasten to say.

It all adds up to a strange little spell after the unbeaten run of 17 games under Dave Jones.

The Hillsborough boss complained, rightly, that even though Rob Lewis, the referee at Crystal Palace, in a way benefited his team, by changing his incredible decision to award a spot kick for a challenge by Mark Beevers, after consulting a linesman and amid a storm of protest, the furore transformed the nature of the game, and he should have got it right in the first place.

Huddersfield’s third goal, from the spot, left the Owls with no chance of getting back into Tuesday’s 10-a-side contest. Ref Graham Salisbury appeared to have a very good view of the incident where a cross struck Rhys McCabe on the hand and did not blow - good judgement, I thought, because it seemed any contact seemed entirely unintentional.

When linesman Barry Gordon kept flagging and the ref trotted over to him, I thought Salisbury was just going to tell him: “Yes, I saw it...it wasn’t intentional.” But instead he gave the penalty after a consultation.

To give Jones his due, he has made no excuses about incidents such as that which have been beyond his team’s control: “They haven’t cost us the game. What’s cost is the fact we haven’t defended properly. It’s happened too many times.”

It must be particularly galling for him, as a former top-flight defender, who sees various basic things going wrong, for example players not marking tightly enough, not playing safe enough, wandering out of position, or failing to prevent or clear crosses.

It was with black humour that he joked about putting his boots on again: “I would think I could probably defend a lot better than some of them are doing at the moment; probably because I can’t run so I don’t get caught out of position!”

Jones has not sought to duck responsibility either: “We start with ourselves - the coaching staff. We’re doing things, showing things. It might be that we don’t show them anything and maybe they will do the opposite of what we’ve been telling them, because they ain’t doin what we’ve been telling them, at the moment.”

There speaks an exasperated man.

It may not get any easier for the Owls in at least one respect, against Bolton tomorrow. Being without your first-choice right back (assuming Lewis Buxton doesn’t play) and his replacement, Joe Mattock, who is suspended for one game, is hardly ideal when the opposition’s left-winger is their man in form, as Chris Eagles is, I am reliably told.

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