Date: 10th December 2008 at 4:17pm
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I wouldn’t go as far as to say Blackpool were robbed last night away at promotion chasing Reading, but the ten men battled hard and perhaps on another day could’ve come away from the Madejski with at least a point.

A 27th minute Ivar Ingimarsson strike was enough to secure the three points for Steve Coppell’s side, but the undoubted star of the show was referee Singh. The 46 year old official has struck fear into the hearts of many teams and fans since his Football League debut in 2004, and this was the case moments before kick off when someone I was sitting next to looked visibly distressed when he saw the ref!

Please don’t think this led to 90 minutes of pre-judgement though – far from it – as anyone that knows me will vouch that I’m far too kind on referees sometimes!

But there was nothing that the referee was seriously at fault for in the first half an hour, as The Seasiders were totally outclassed by, and let’s make no bones about it, a far better team. Stephen Hunt was a constant threat on the Royals’ left, and he was brought into play everytime they were in possession. Singh made a good decision in not awarding Reading an early penalty as Hunt took a tumble in the box, but the goal was certainly coming, and although Paul Rachubka hadn’t actually had that much to save, there was nothing he could do about the eventual match winner. However, Singh and one of his linesmen were heavily involved, and it was a complete catalogue which in the end saw Rabs beaten. Firstly, Chris Armstrong seemed to carry the ball out of play, but no throw in was given. Then, Hunt looked to foul Barker, and again, nothing given, but the ball was played into the ‘Pool box (and this is where we start to blame poor defending…) which saw Ben Burgess fail miserably to clear his lines and Ivar Ingimarsson blasted home to seal the game.

And moments later, Singh was again the centre of attention when Lee Hendrie was given a straight red card. The on loan midfielder went over the players’ leg and then strode through him, dumped on the ground. At first glance, this looked a horrific tackle, however on reflection it perhaps warranted a booking at worst. However, Hendrie was still fuming from the Reading goal, and should’ve put a cap on his emotions. And the sending off saw a disappointed Adam Hammill replaced by David Fox, with Steve Kabba going to the right of midfield.

‘Pool battled well for the remainder of the game, and will certainly feel they deserved much more than what they got – pride. They looked more comfortable on the ball in the second period, with Burgess, Reid and Barker all going close from set pieces.

However, it was the introduction of golden boy Liam Dickinson which really warmed the heathly travelling support up. He and the rejuvinated Gary Taylor-Fletcher (clearly Larry’s harsh words have made a difference) changed the game. GTF harried defenders, looked to get in behind and feed Dickinson, whilst the big striker ran the line, held the ball up and brought others into play. GTF had a goal disallowed for a questionable offside; questionable because it took the linesman so long to put up his flag. This delay was nothing to do with the new offside law of waiting for the attacker to become active either, because GTF was sprinting clear (ball at feet) whilst the lino was dallying.

Late on we really ought to have scored. Keith Southern had a shot brilliantly saved by Stephen Hunt before it could reach the goalkeeper, but Singh again waved away the penalty claims. It was a truly stunning save by the left winger, who had both hands outstrectched to bat the ball away. At this point, Grayson was going ape on the touchline, and was promptly sent to the stands for only the second time in his managerial career.

With five minutes left there was still time for more drama as Singh gave a stonewall penalty for a trip on Armstrong, but man of the match Hunt found Rachubka in inspired form as the ‘keeper saved excellently from 12 yards.

Time was running out for ‘Pool though sadly, but there is always ‘one more chance’ and that opportunity fell to man of the moment Liam Dickinson but the on loan striker couldn’t add to his four Blackpool goals as he tried to outdo too many defenders instead of lashing at the ball for goal. If he had hit it first time, his effort would have had to have been some strike – a Marco Van Basten type strike, so you can’t blame him for overdoing it. Dickinson was then penalised for a high foot just as a Reading defender booted behind for an away corner – typical.

And so, time was up for the fantastic ten men, but they will go to The City Ground on Saturday full of confidence, with the belief that not only can they beat Nottingham Forest, but play them off the park.

As the Gazette said today, it feels more like a victory than defeat – never a truer word written. 10 men playing 12 really isn’t fair, and I wish the referee’s would ‘singh’ from the same hymn sheet as the rest of Football. Then, we might just get out just rewards from time to time.