All things equal in refereeing popularity contest

Vale of Leithen 1

Spartans 1

EoS PREMIER DIVISION

DAVe RYCE reports from Victoria Park

IT’S AN unusual sight to see a referee leaving the field after a game while being showered with compliments by the players, receiving high-fives from the coaching staff and the crowd chanting his name – and sure enough on Saturday this did not happen to referee Paul Hanlon.

The grade four whistler adhered to the principle that the best you can hope for as a match official is to upset both sides equally and he was certainly successful in this respect, making a number of crucial decisions that hugely influenced the outcome of the game.

The first of these came in the 18th minute, when Hanlon ruled that Vale’s Chris Gordon had pushed Spartans’ Donal Henretty in the area and pointed to the spot.

The hosts protested that Henretty was more guilty of backing into the Vale man, but Jack Beesley was allowed to tuck the penalty away.

Vale’s equaliser in the 36th minute came after a good block by home keeper James Hudson as he rushed off his line to divert an effort from Beesley away from goal.

The Innerleithen men broke upfield quickly and when Scott Moffat and Kevin Sivewright collided in the area going for the ball, it fell kindly for Danny Noon to shoot home.

The second half, conducted at a frantic pace, saw Mr Hanlon make a number of decisions that infuriated both sets of supporters.

Firstly, he waved away appeals as Henretty appeared to have been bundled over in the area by Jack Blaikie. Vale then had their own shout for a penalty as Mark Smith was sent tumbling by Gary Cennerazzo, but a free kick was given on the 18yd line.

With 12 minutes remaining, Vale’s Chris Gray fell over the trailing leg of a Spartans defender in the box and was promptly booked for simulation.

Before play could restart however, Hanlon produced a straight red card to Noon after the striker had given him an appraisal of his decision that carried an 18 certificate and Vale were down to 10 men.

Spartans had the upper hand now and five minutes from time Sean Wringe was presented with a chance to wrap things up for the capital side, but keeper Hudson, who had produced a number of top drawer saves to keep the capital side out, was again Vale’s saviour as he dived to push the ball away from the substitute’s toes and ensure that it finished level.

Vale of Leithen: J. Hudson, W. Sproule, C. Gray, R. McKenzie, J. Blaikie, C. Inglis, M. Smith, C. Gordon, S. Moffat (S. Devlin), D. Noon, M. Cairney.