REF WATCH – Nottingham Forest


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


  1. Lol. Welcome to the Championship. As a forest fan, we see this inconsistency week in, week out. I agree that Cash was lucky to stay on the pitch. Having said that, I thought this was the fairest ref I’ve seen all season. He let the game flow and dealt with situations well. And I’m sorry, but Grealish was a definite red card. His 30 yard “pass” went to his own player and not to anyone in a red shirt, so that was a yellow. Hogan’s yellow for not backing up enough – again, we see this all the time in the championship – perhaps they don’t have the same rulle in the PL? And Grealish’s second yellow was for a professional foul. If he hadn’t fouled Lichaj, he would have been away for the counter attack, so the ref was right. I’m sorry, but your article smacks a little bit of sour grapes. You better get used to the refs seeing as it looks like you’ll be seeing them for a while, but unfortunately that’s the standard in the championship!

  2. Sorry, can’t agree with you.

    Grealish Yellow 1: Passed the ball directly to another Villa player a full 15 seconds after the whistle had gone. Dissent, kicking the ball away – yellow card.

    Matty Cash Yellow 1: That was not excessive force – it was an honest challenge, and the icelandic wing back did himself no favours with the theatrics on the floor. Maybe he’s got you fooled, but no one else.

    Scott Hogan Yellow 1: He was asked repeatedly by the assistant to move away from the corner, interrupting the flow of play for over 30 seconds. If you refuse to do what the assistant tells you, that is dissent – clear yellow.

    Grealish Yellow 2: This is a contentious one, but hear me out. Lichaj was on the break/counter attack, and Grealish denied the break by tripping him in a cynical foul. If you do that anywhere on the pitch to deny a clear counter attack, that is a yellow card. I agree there were other fouls that didn’t get carded that looked the same, but were not clearly cynical to deny the opposition an attacking chance.

    TL;DR: Ref got it right, the Championship doesn’t owe you anything.

  3. What bit of kicking the ball away being a yellow card offence dont you understand. Grealish was about 5 metres from the nearest Forest player if he wanted to pass it to Forest to restart. He didn’t, instead he rolled it a good 30 or 40 metres away and it wasn’t to the Forest CB it went to another Villa player. Stupid thing to do and the definition of kicking the ball away. If you want to blame the referee for Villa’s inability to win that game that’s your lookout, but your kidding yourself. Grealish also doesn’t need to make the tackle for the second yellow, there is your culprit. Pathetic, petulant and never grows up.

  4. I am a Forest fan and whilst I agree with some of your points I also think Jack gave the referee a decision to make by kicking the ball away and it went towards a Villa player.Players have to be accounable for their rash sometimes stupid decisions especially player’s like him who court controversy.

  5. Why “calmly pass” it to a Forest player (actually a Villa player) 20 + yards away when he could have left the ball where it was? A stupid booking but one Grealish brought on himself (we had a player sent off at Villa park for celebrating a goal if you remember, also players receive a second booking for over forcefully throwing the ball to an opponent and slamming that ball on the ground after a throw in went the other way – again stupid bookings but one brought upon themselves by the players concerned.
    As regards Hogan’s yellow card – I’ve seen it before going back a while – Stern John (that’s how long ago) was sent off (second yellow) for failing to retreat 10 yards. In this case I’d agree, unless the player is being a dick about it then surely at that late stage a word from the ref would suffice.


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