Referee was right to send off Gardner, says McLeish

Birmingham City 0 Wigan 0
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The Independent Online

Many home fans were infuriated by the red card shown to Craig Gardner, but Alex McLeish had no complaints about Mark Clattenburg's 88th-minute dismissal of Birmingham's leading goalscorer for his reckless challenge on Franco Di Santo.

"We won't be appealing," McLeish said after Saturday's match at St Andrew's. "I don't think it was a massively dirty tackle. You might have got away with it a year ago but, when there are studs colliding with a player's leg, then the refs are clamping down on that in this country. The ref was in a good position and, under the rules, he's made the right decision."

Gardner's clumsy challenge left Di Santo with cuts to his leg and fears that he may also have suffered ankle ligament damage. "From where I was, Gardner's leading foot was really high and he gets the ball with the second foot," Roberto Martinez, Wigan's manager said. "Nowadays you can't go into a challenge like that with your feet high."

This was the latest in a series of bad tackles that have seen Arsenal's Arsène Wenger leading calls for more effective action. Martinez agrees: "We all want to see good football, attacking play and goals. Tackles are a risk in modern football. If you go to ground and you get the ball, great, but you need to know that if you don't get the ball and you get the player it should be a red card."

McLeish is happy that referees are less tolerant of dangerous challenges: "You don't want to see players getting hurt, especially breaking a leg or having to miss the whole season. Craig is not a malicious guy. He was over-zealous in the challenge to make sure he got the ball, but there is an art to tackling and getting your foot behind the ball."

Charles N'Zogbia, defying the hostility of a Birmingham crowd still angry over his pulling out of a move to the club because his wage demands were not met, was an occasional threat, but the most effective attacking player was Sebastian Larsson. Most of the half-chances Birmingham created were the result of his crosses and wickedly-curling free kicks.

Birmingham City 4-2-3-1: Foster; Carr, Johnson, Dann, Ridgewell; Ferguson, Bowyer (Zigic, 62); Larsson, Gardner, Hleb (Beausejour, 62); Jerome (Phillips, 78). Substitutes not used: Taylor (gk), Derbyshire, Fahey, Jiranek.

Booked Johnson, Dann.

Sent off Gardner

Wigan Athletic 4-4-2: Al Habsi; Boyce, Gohouri, Alcaraz, Figueroa; Stam (Di Santo, 59; Moses, 90), McCarthy, Thomas, Diame (Watson, 82); Rodallega, N'Zogbia. Substitutes not used: Kirkland (gk), Boselli, Caldwell, Gomez.

Booked Rodallega, Stam, Gohouri.

Man of the match Larsson.

Possession Birmingham 53% Wigan 47%

Shots on target Birmingham 4 Wigan 10

Referee M Clattenburg (Tyne and Wear) Attendance 22,186. Match rating 3/10.

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