Stuart Attwell's awful day has Keith Hill looking for some perspective
Barnsley go 11 games without victory
Sunday 16 December 2012
So where do Barnsley go from here, after an 11th successive Championship fixture without a win – a 1-0 South Yorkshire derby defeat against a Sheffield Wednesday side who were pointless in their previous seven matches? That would be to Millwall this coming Saturday.
The New Den might not be quite as spine-chillingly intimidating as the old one at Cold Blow Lane, where a less than warm welcome always lay in wait from the locals and the fearsome Harry Cripps, but it is not the cheeriest pre-Christmas prospect. Keith Hill was not exactly relishing it on Saturday night.
"So you come back Monday morning, bright and fresh, and look forward to Millwall next weekend?" someone suggested to the Barnsley manager. "That is the intention," Hill replied, "but the biggest day of the week is obviously visiting the children's ward on Tuesday. That's really important for me as a family man – to get a sense of reality back. This is a great job but it's not life and death. It feels like it sometimes, but you want to put perspective and reality on it and to visit the children's hospital on Tuesday will give me and the players a taste of that."
Not that there was much sense of perspective in the immediate aftermath of a feverish Saturday night local spat that drew to a conclusion with the South Yorkshire constabulary struggling to keep apart rival fans spoiling for a mass fight in the north-east corner of the ground. Hill himself – whose survival in his job may depend on a festive period revival – was not exactly seeing the bigger picture when he pointed a finger of accountability at the referee, Stuart Attwell.
The outcome hinged on the 35th- minute incident when Lewis Buxton pumped a high ball into the heart of the Barnsley box and Luke Steele, the home goalkeeper, failed to pluck it out of the air, allowing Chris O'Grady to sidefoot it into the corner of an unguarded net. Replays showed that Steele had been pushed, to some degree, by Wednesday's Gary Madine but Attwell allowed the goal to stand.
"The referee got it wrong," Hill said, "and the ramifications of him getting that decision wrong could be catastrophic on a lot of things. The result was decided by that decision.
"In the second half we had more than enough opportunities to get something out of the game. I just thought it was a difficult match for the referee. He will be disappointed with his performance when he comes to digest it. Unfortunately, I don't have a second job to go to on Monday and I have to deal with it."
Dave Jones, the Wednesday manager, was honest enough to concede: "Lady luck was on our side." He also ventured: "The referee had a shocker." Indeed, Mr Attwell did not have the best of nights. His worst decision, however, was not the one that deemed Madine's challenge on Steele to have been valid. It was the one that allowed Barnsley the luxury of keeping 11 men on the field before they had gone a goal down.
Stephen Foster's "tackle" on Madine was so far over the top it would have done Harry Cripps proud – or, indeed, that old Barnsley hatchet man so beloved of Michael Parkinson, "Skinner" Normanton. Jones called it "scandalous", adding, "Gary was lucky he wasn't put into Row Z."
Foster's name was put into Mr Attwell's notebook but the red-shirted No 6 was only shown a yellow card. It is a small mercy for Hill that his central defender will be free for the pre-Christmas knees-up down at the Den.
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