Two wins from two in what Rafa called an 8 game mini league. But this one was not without a huge amount of controversy with what has to be the craziest refereeing performance not just of the season (of very poor referees) but of all time in the English game.
STARTING XI: Darlow, Anita, Lascelles, Mbemba, Dummett, Diame, Shelvey, Ritchie, Perez, Atsu (Ameobi, 89), Gayle (Murphy, 91)
To the result first then, and yet against it was Matt Ritchie to the rescue as his thunder-strike on 68 minutes was enough to secure all three points for the Mags. In fairness it was not more than the hosts deserved as they outplayed Burton from the first whistle to the last with 70% of possession and 22 shots at goal (Burton 6).
Newcastle had started quickly and had a number of half chances early on with both Ritchie and Perez trying their luck before Shelvey fired over. On 29 minutes Rafa thought his men had taken the lead after Newcastle were awarded a penalty and Ritchie converted the resultant spot kick. Rafa could only watch on in horror as somehow the goal was not given - more on that later - as this one needs some column inches (and a replay). Unbelievable!
Newcastle continue to press for a winner after the penalty controversy and would come close a number of time as the game pushed into the second half. But is was left to Ritchie again to be the hero as his cut in from the left and delicious curling effort found the keeper top left corner from fully 25 yards. Wonderful.
It was no more than Newcastle deserved and the result puts Newcastle back to the top of the league and one point ahead of rivals Brighton. More importantly though, after wins for Reading and Huddersfield mid-week it keeps the black and whites 10 points above the chasing pack having played one from the Huddersfield.
To that penalty then…
The man in question here is Keith Stroud (remember the name, although I doubt we will ever see him at SJP again).
The event was the aftermath of a penalty that had been awarded and then scored from (Ritchie, 29 mins).
As the players celebrated the referee brought play back and inexplicably awarded Burton a free kick. With players, Rafa, management staff and crowd apoplectic the referee held fast with his decision despite consulting with his linesman and 4th official.
As theories debated by press including on Sky Sports who reviewed the decision, no one could understand what had been given.
What transpires after the game is that Stroud didn’t know the rules. His decision should have been a retake as he had adjudged encroachment in the box as the kick was taken. Everyone in the ground other than the ref and his teams knew that should mean a re-take as the penalty was scored. What a mess….
A PGMOL statement after the game read:
"As Matt Ritchie took the kick, Dwight Gayle encroached in the penalty area. An indirect free-kick was awarded to Burton, but the laws of the game state that that the penalty kick should have been retaken.
Unfortunately the referee has misapplied the law. Keith and his team are understandably upset at the lapse in concentration and apologise for the mistake."
It seems this one is as simple as the referee AND his team just didn’t know the laws of the game. What can you say!
Onwards and upwards. #InRafaWeTrust