Arsenal 2 Wigan Athletic 1: Jewell savages referee Dowd as 'worst in league'

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The Independent Online

Paul Jewell called him the referee who "could cost us £50m" if his club are relegated and that was one of the politest things the Wigan manager had to say about Phil Dowd. After a stunning Arsenal comeback in the space of five mad minutes, Jewell launched a remarkable attack on Dowd in which he accused the official of being "the worst referee in the league".

If Tomas Rosicky's winner on 85 minutes took the breath away, then so did Jewell's tirade against Dowd that is sure to leave the Wigan manager on a Football Association disciplinary charge. In fact, Jewell was so certain of that he was already discussing his defence to the governing body in the aftermath of the game. "No doubt, I'll get a letter from the FA, asking me to explain my comments," he said. "Maybe I'll show them a video of the game and say, 'There are my comments, you tell me about it'."

The most devastating aspect of Jewell's attack on Dowd was when he recounted a conversation with an unnamed "leading Premiership manager" who, he said, had described the Staffordshire official as "the worst referee in the league".

"I thought it was there for all to see today," Jewell added. Having left the pitch arguing with Dowd, had Jewell seen anything to change that assessment of the referee? "Absolutely not."

At the heart of Jewell's grievances was Dowd's failure to award Emile Heskey a penalty in the second half when he was held back by substitute Mathieu Flamini and then not spot that the Frenchman was marginally offside when he crossed for the equaliser - an own goal by Fitz Hall. And the Wigan manager also accused Dowd of hypocrisy for swearing at his players on the pitch and then threatening to send him to the stand for bad language.

"It's a man's game, but he is telling our players to 'F' off and things like that," Jewell alleged. "I don't mind but then he is telling me I am in the stands because I am having a go at him. He has cost us the game, no doubt about that. If he wants to take it even further, I'll take his language to my players even further

"I would be in dreamland if these referees recognised the importance of football matches. It's our living, I think some of these fellows think it's a hobby to them. People care passionately like I do, like my players do and referees, they try their best but it doesn't mean enough to them and they are not accountable."

To cap a surreal end to the afternoon, the Wigan chairman, Dave Whelan, strolled into Jewell's press conference to tell his manager, who was in mid-flow, that the foul on Heskey was a "nailed on" penalty. "You'll be sick when you see that one again, Paul," Whelan added. The Wigan chairman had just seen his side miss out on the chance to put eight points, rather than five, between them and the relegation places.

Still Jewell was not quite finished with Dowd in one of the most comprehensive character assassinations in Premiership history. He accused Dowd of failing to allow Josip Skoko back on to the pitch after treatment, although the fourth official had given permission, and bemoaned the fact that the fight between Queen's Park Rangers and the China Olympic team had led to Dermot Gallagher being taken off the game.

Wigan took the lead through an exquisitely struck Denny Landzaat goal on 35 minutes and spent the rest of the match trying to defend it through any means necessary, which included some brazen time-wasting by goalkeeper Chris Kirkland. It infuriated Thierry Henry to the extent that after the equaliser he made a great play of sarcastically presenting the ball to the Wigan goalkeeper.

It was no surprise that Wenger said he did not see the Heskey penalty incident, but he defended the principle of Henry's protest to Kirkland for wasting time. "I would like yellow cards for that," Wenger said. "For me what Thierry did was right. People do not come and pay money to see people waste the time. Thierry said, 'Listen, here is the ball, why do you not want it now?' He should not have done it but, frankly, it is not the biggest insult we have seen in football."

Henry attempted to make up with Kirkland at the final whistle but was met with a frosty response, and after nine bookings in the game it was that kind of day. Johan Djourou departed with a broken nose and Jens Lehmann's yellow card means he will not be eligible for the Carling Cup final against Chelsea - not that Wenger was likely to pick him anyway.

Arsenal are making a habit of these kind of comebacks - it is the 14th time this season that they have come from behind to win, and when they look this shaky in defence it is no surprise. It was Djourou who chased Julius Aghahowa in the penalty box on 35 minutes. The Nigerian cut the ball back and, via a touch from Djourou, Landzaat hit a shot from 25 yards that beat Lehmann.

Arsenal created much but Henry, in particular, was poor in front of goal. Before half-time, Heskey's shot was turned on to the post by Lehmann. Arsenal's breakthrough came shortly after Flamini had stepped across Heskey and tripped him as the striker bore down on goal. On 81 minutes the Frenchman was offside when he ran on to a pass on the right wing and his cross was turned in by Hall. "I think Mathieu Flamini was offside," Henry said, "you have to put your hand up on goals like that."

Matt Jackson and Emerson Boyce had been solid in Wigan's defence but they could do little about the winner. From Emmanuel Adebayor to Julio Baptista the ball was crossed in for Rosicky to head his first Premiership goal and move Arsenal up to fourth place.

"Dowd by name, Dowd by nature," was Jewell's final word on the afternoon although it was not clear exactly what he meant by that. The Wigan manager has a history with Dowd - he criticised the referee heavily after a Blackburn match last season but escaped censure from the FA. Something tells you that he might not be so lucky this time.

Goals: Landzaat (35) 0-1; Hall og (81) 1-1; Rosicky (85) 2-1.

Arsenal (4-4-2): Lehmann; Hoyte (Flamini, 67), Touré, Djourou (Adebayor, 50), Clichy; Walcott (Aliadière, 67), Silva, Fabregas, Rosicky; Henry, Baptista. Substitutes not used: Denilson, Almunia (gk).

Wigan Athletic (4-4-2): Kirkland; Hall (Haestad, 90), Boyce, Jackson, Baines; Taylor (Valencia, 86), Landzaat, Skoko, McCulloch; Aghahowa (Kilbane, 86) Heskey. Substitutes not used: Filan (gk), Unsworth.

Referee: P Dowd (Staffordshire).

Booked: Arsenal Touré, Lehmann, Henry, Rosicky, Fabregas, Clichy; Wigan Baines, McCulloch, Hall.

Man of the match: Rosicky.

Attendance: 60,049.

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