Prutton faces long ban after pushing official

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The Independent Football

David Prutton faces a lengthy ban after the Southampton midfielder pushed the referee, Alan Wiley, in the chest at least twice following his sending-off in the 1-1 draw with Arsenal yesterday.

David Prutton faces a lengthy ban after the Southampton midfielder pushed the referee, Alan Wiley, in the chest at least twice following his sending-off in the 1-1 draw with Arsenal yesterday.

It was the worst such offence since Paolo Di Canio pushed over Paul Alcock after being shown a red card while playing for Sheffield Wednesday - also against Arsenal - in 1998. Di Canio received an extra eight-match ban to add to his automatic three-game suspension, and did not play from October until Christmas.

Had Wiley been caught off-balance, Prutton's assault would have looked even worse.

He seemed particularly incensed that the referee had gone to consult his assistant about the bad tackle that put Robert Pires out of the game. Prutton had earlier collected his ninth yellow card of the season for a poor challenge on Mathieu Flamini.

He had to be restrained by Southampton's manager, Harry Redknapp, who said later: "What was he arguing about? He jumped in when there was no need to make a tackle. It was an obvious sending-off."

Arsenal's Arsène Wenger was equally annoyed with his young Dutch forward Robin van Persie, who also collected a second yellow card soon afterwards, cancelling out his side's numerical advantage and allowing Southampton back into the game. Peter Crouch duly equalised Fredrik Ljungberg's goal, taking advantage of another goalkeeping error by Jens Lehmann.

Although Redknapp regarded the result as "a bonus point", Southampton slipped further behind Crystal Palace in the bottom four places, the London side beating Birmingham City 2-0, with two goals from Andrew Jones. West Bromwich Albion did not play and Norwich are at home to Manchester City tomorrow.

Arsenal, who will have Van Persie and fellow strikers Dennis Bergkamp and Jose Antonio Reyes all suspended for Tuesday's FA Cup replay away to Sheffield United, are now 10 points behind Chelsea at the top having played one game more.

Manchester United closed to six points off the pace by beating Portsmouth 2-1 at Old Trafford, with Wayne Rooney scoring both United's goals.

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