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Monday musings: The Bridge of lies

Filed: Monday, 21st March 2016
By: Graeme Howlett

By rights, West Ham United should be looking forward to an FA Cup semi final whilst peering down at the rest of the Premier League from a lofty fourth place.

And that would indeed have been the case had referees Martin Atkinson and Bobby Madley made the correct calls at Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge respectively, in the Irons' two most recent outings.

The weekend before last, West Ham were denied an FA Cup semi final spot - for now - when Atkinson deemed a Man Utd equaliser to be within the laws of the game, despite Bastian Schweinsteiger clearly bundling 'keeper Darren Randolph into the net as Anthony Martial prepared to shoot.

And having allowed Man United's dodgy 84th-minute equaliser to stand - a goal that forced a replay at the Boleyn Ground - Atkinson infuriated West Ham further by ruling out what appeared to be a perfectly legitimate, last=gasp strike by Michail Antonio for offside.

Fast forward seven days and West Ham, leading Chelsea 1-0 in the Premier League at Stamford Bridge concede a free kick on the edge of the penalty area in the closing stages of the first half.

United defenders remonstrate with official Madley as behind him and unseen, Cesc Fabregas moves the ball a yard or two further away from goal in order to gain a better angle for a shot meaning West Ham's 'wall' is now 12-13 yards from where the kick will be taken.

But their protests are ignored as the Spanish midfielder drops the ball over the wall and into Adrian's top right corner to level the scores.

Fast forward another 45 minutes or so and West Ham, having restored their lead through substitute Andy Carroll and therefore set to rise above Man City into fourth place in the Premier League are punished yet again by a terrible call from Madley.

The Wakefield-born referee decides to award Chelsea a 90th-minute penalty despite the offending tackle by Antonio on Ruben Loftus-Cheek - if it was even a foul at all (video evidence suggests otherwise) - having occurred outside the penalty box. All of which took place just yards from where the official was placed. Fabregas steps up again to score from the spot and West Ham lose two vital Premier League points.

Last season a long-running thread on the KUMB Forum put to bed the common misconception that "these things even themselves out over the course of the season".

The evidence collected during the course of the 2015/16 campaign suggested this simply wasn't true, and once again West Ham - who have now gone some four seasons without being awarded a penalty away from home - have been left feeling wronged after facing one of the nation's elite clubs.

So instrumental have those decisions been in the last two games that even Slaven Bilic, one of the managers least likely to resort to blaming officials for his team's misfortunes decreed recent examples such as those above as "unacceptable".

The irony of all that is that Bilic may well get fined by the Premier League for telling it how it is - whereas the substandard Atkinson and Madley are unlikely to face any action from the PGMOL, the unaccountable and untouchable quango who control the appointment of match day referees.

Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.

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