The Everton captain David Weir has refused to exonerate Jason Roberts following the latest elbowing incident involving the Wigan striker. An explosive finale to a 1-1 draw at the JJB Stadium on Tuesday night included Roberts being sent off for hitting Weir in the face with his left elbow.
That came seven minutes from time, three minutes after the Everton striker Duncan Ferguson was sent off - for the eighth time in his Goodison Park career - for punching Paul Scharner in the stomach.
The Wigan manager Paul Jewell felt that Roberts' actions were "silly rather than malicious", but the 28-year-old will serve a three-match ban as a result. He will not miss the Carling Cup final with Manchester United on 26 February, though, as a Premiership game with Tottenham has been rearranged for the previous weekend. That means Roberts will complete his suspension after that match, as well as missing games at Bolton Wanderers this Saturday and at home to Liverpool the following weekend.
Weir, when asked if he felt that the incident with Roberts was accidental, said: "I just got caught on the jaw. That's all I know. I have not seen it on TV so I can't comment on whether it was accidental or not. But it doesn't matter to me whether it was accidental; he has caught me and that's the end of the story as far as I'm concerned."
It is the second time in five weeks that Roberts has been involved in an elbowing controversy. During the 2-0 victory at West Ham on 28 December Roberts was booked for catching the Hammers defender James Collins in the face with his elbow. Shortly afterwards, Roberts caught Collins' face again with his left elbow, leaving the Wales international with a cut lip. No action was taken.
The referee Steve Bennett confirmed in his match report that he saw what happened, which left the Football Association powerless to intervene. Investigations can only be launched on the basis of video evidence if the match officials did not witness the incident at the time.
Ferguson was yesterday fined two weeks' wages by his manager David Moyes and his dismissal blights what is expected to be his final season at Goodison Park. His contract expires this summer, and it is unlikely to be renewed.
Moyes was furious after the match, insisting that his fellow Scot's actions could not be defended and that he had let the club down.
It appears that Ferguson offered no apology to his team-mates after the game, as Weir said: "He hasn't mentioned it."
Fortunately for Everton and Moyes, Ferguson's red card - equalling the Premiership record of the former Arsenal captain Patrick Vieira - did not prevent them extending their unbeaten run to eight games. That is the best Everton have achieved under Moyes, yet Weir feels that it should have been a fifth successive victory after his side had controlled the first 45 minutes on Tuesday night. Following an own goal from Wigan's David Thompson, the Latics replied on the stroke of half-time with a close-range volley from Scharner. "It was disappointing to concede a goal that close to half-time," Weir said. "If we had held the lead at the break then I feel we would have gone on to take all three points.
"But Wigan is a difficult place to play," Weir added. "A lot of teams have come unstuck there. Maybe we deserved to come away with a little bit more, but we can't be too disappointed because we've kept our unbeaten run going, and we will try to keep it going for as long as we can."
Crucially for Everton, Weir and Alan Stubbs were at the heart of a resilient second-half performance when their side were coming under pressure as Wigan pushed for an elusive winner.
The duo were reunited in the centre of Everton's defence on the latter's return to Goodison Park from Sunderland, and Weir is delighted.
"I've had a few central-defensive partners this season," he said. "That's the way it has been, but it was nice to have Stubbsy back. He looked like he had never been away. He was the best player on the pitch, there was no doubt about that."