Sunderland boss Martin O’Neill unhappy to pay penalty for inconsistency

REFEREE WOES ... Sunderland manager Martin O'Neill.
REFEREE WOES ... Sunderland manager Martin O'Neill.

AN animated figure on the touchline, who kicks every ball during games, Martin O’Neill cuts a more reflective, more thoughtful character in Press Rooms afterwards.

But refereeing decisions in the last couple of weeks are sorely trying his patience post match.

And he did well to keep a lid on his obvious annoyance on Saturday as once again, in his view, Sunderland were robbed of a legitimate penalty.

Against West Bromwich Albion last week Gareth McAuley handled in the area, and on Saturday at the Stadium of Light Philippe Senderos did the same.

But both incidents went unpunished by referees, who were to impose the letter of the law in other respects during the matches.

And it is this aspect in particular which is annoying the life out of the Sunderland manager: not that he thinks these are penalties, but that by the referee’s own rules, they are.

He explained: “It seemed reasonably clear when the referees came up at the start of the season, and had a meeting with us to show us what did and didn’t constitute penalties, exactly what it was they were about.

“They even showed us examples, so that we knew what their directives were.

“Whether those sort of incidents would have been penalties, 10 or 15 years ago, is a different issue.

“But that is not the point.

“It’s all about what is deemed to be a penalty these days.

“And by the letter of their own laws, both the incidents against us at Albion, and against Fulham, should have been penalties for us.”

O’Neill confronted referee Mark Halsey for an explanation after the game, and though the Sunderland manager got one of sorts, he was not satisfied.

He said: “I spoke to Mark Halsey, and said that to me the penalty appeal was clear cut.

“He said he didn’t think it was a deliberate handball, but by the rules of the game it’s still a handball.

“He says that a lot of soft penalties seem to be given at the moment, but that’s irrelevant

“To me, it’s clear-cut.

“It’s a penalty – simple as that.

“Earlier in the game, I was disappointed that the ref took as long as he did to award the penalty against us for the Craig Gardner incident – I thought it was harsh.

“But if he gives it then fine, he also has to give the one in our favour too – just as should have been the case against Albion the other week.”