Saturday evening was another occasion on which the Villans felt that nothing was going their way as they fell to a late defeat against Midlands rivals Nottingham Forest.
The referee for this game was Paul Tierney, whose last game involving Villa was September’s 1-1 draw with Newcastle United.
This was always going to be a feisty game, with Henri Lansbury returning to his former club. However, the former Forest captain wasn’t really involved in any of the controversy on the day.
Tierney allowed the game to flow in the opening stages, pulling the play back for a few silly fouls which was to be expected. In fact, for the opening half hour the referee did very well and was almost unnoticeable, keeping his cards in his pocket and allowing the game to flow.
The first yellow card of the game was given to Jack Grealish in the thirty-second minute and this was when the referee started to put pressure on himself.
Grealish was booked for dissent as he calmly passed the ball towards the Forest centre backs following Villa’s Birkir Bjarnason conceding a foul on the half way line. This caution for the Villa midfielder was baffling for anyone watching the game. The more that you watch it, the more ridiculous it is. Although I can just about see why the referee gave this a yellow card, I tend to think that this was a situation where he could have managed it without a card, which would have saved him some hassle later on. At this level, the referee probably should be managing situations like that, particularly in the first half of a game as there was no reason for Grealish to be wasting time. If he wanted to seriously protest the decision, why would he calmly pass the ball to a Forest player?
A few moments later, the first bad challenge of the game was committed by Nottingham Forest’s Matt Cash, whose studs made a perfect connection with Bjarnason’s left leg.
Following this challenge, the referee gave himself some thinking time and took Cash to one side before showing him a yellow card, which was the wrong decision. The laws of the game state that any challenge which uses ‘excessive force’, which was the case here, is a red card offence. I wonder whether the referee had a good view of the challenge, as it is a game of angles when refereeing, but the challenge took place right in front of the assistant referee, who should have informed the referee of the severity of the challenge.
In the closing moments of the first half, the referee showed Villa debutant Scott Hogan a yellow card for failing to retreat the required distance for a corner. I don’t think I have ever seen a yellow card given for that before in professional football. It was another bizarre moment from Tierney who, again, could and should have managed the situation by talking to Hogan rather than proving that he had more cards than a magician.
Much like the first half, the opening thirty minutes of the second half went by without incident for the referee and he was unnoticeable again – until he decided to stir up the game once again.
Jack Grealish tripped Eric Lichaj on the edge of the Forest penalty area. It was an incident which was similar to many others during the second half where the referee had chosen to talk to players instead of carding them. This time he took a different approach and decided that the foul warranted a second yellow card for Grealish, earning him his, and Aston Villa Football Club’s, first red card of the season.
Steve Bruce was incensed after the game claiming that Paul Tierney “couldn’t wait to send him off” and the Villa boss also claimed that the referee was influenced by the home crowd.
The biggest issue in the Grealish red card is consistency on the referee’s part. There was none. Little more than five minutes after Grealish was dismissed, Lichaj committed a similar foul and was not even spoken to by the official.
This was a tough game for the referee, mainly because he made it tough for himself by not managing the game and carding players at the first opportunity. It wasn’t a game that needed a hardline approach from the officials so I’m not sure why it got one. The officiating lacked consistency and did seem to be more favourable towards the home side.
Ref rating: 3/10