|The Grinch was in town today, dressed in a referee’s uniform, he was erratic, mentally unstable and determined to spoil Christmas for the 26,000 that had turned up for this festive game.
Thanks to goals from David Johnson and Marlon Harewood he didn’t quite pull it off and the majority of supporters went home happy with a 2-0 win.
Forest’s class showed throughout the game and Reading – despite looking good in midfield – didn’t really have an answer.
Gareth Williams and Andy Reid were in good form in the Forest midfield and Reid had a particularly good game putting in some fine crosses, but Williams’ through ball for Johnson’s goal, only four minutes into the game, gets my vote for pass of the game.
A couple of minutes after he scored the opener Johnson found himself in the referee’s book.
After a tangle of bodies on the edge of the Reading area, the ref awarded a free-kick to Reading. Johnson, who had picked the ball up, held on to it for too long as he tussled with a Reading defender. The referee, who has a reputation as card happy, didn’t hesitate, and Johnson picked up his fourth booking of the season. It was probably the only valid booking of the entire game.
Forest continued to dominate the game and for the next 30 minutes Reading had to soak up the pressure with only brief excursions into Forest’s half.
During this time the referee had been a little whistle happy – trying out a new one probably – but otherwise nothing too controversial had happened. Then the referee lost the plot completely as he awarded a free kick to Reading just inside the Forest half. Andy Reid kicked the ball along the ground towards the referee to where the free kick was to be taken from (most people would call this passing the ball back). The referee took umbrage at this show of petulance from Reid, after all, how dare he pass the ball back to someone as important as him? The booing rang around the ground as he produced the yellow card and stunned every player on the pitch and the whole crowd as well.
Must be a one-off I thought, perhaps I and the other 26,000 missed something. Silly me – it wasn’t a one-off at all.
Within two minutes the lunatic in the green shirt was at it again. This time the poor victim was Reading’s Rougier. Forest had been awarded a free-kick in their own half. Rougier tried to control the ball but mis-kicked it and it rolled off his foot, he gathered it up and passed it back, but too late, striding across the pitch like a demented stormtrooper the ref brandished another yellow.
For the first time in my football-watching life I found myself, along with the rest of the Trent End, booing the referee for booking an opposition player – it really was that bizarre.
You’d think the referee would have got the hint when just about every Forest fan in the ground booed him while he booked a Reading player, but not this dipstick, he wouldn’t get a hint if you shoved it up his arse, which just happens to be where every spectator in the ground wanted to shove his bloody cards.
Despite the referee’s dominance of this game, some football was actually played and as the first half drew to its conclusion there were further chances for Harewood, Johnson and Scimeca.
The second half started brightly for Forest with an early chance for Jack Lester but Adi Williams somehow managed to block and clear the ball.
On 50 minutes a Scimeca corner found the head of Louis-Jean, but the ball went over the bar when it would have been easier to go in the net.
Forest kept up the pressure on a Reading defence that was desperately missing Matthew Upson, who had returned to Arsenal, and chances fell to Louis-Jean – who hit the post, Johnson and Harwood.
On 62 minutes it occurred to the referee that these 22 men playing football were starting to get far more attention than he was and he needed to do something about it. This time the victim was Jack Lester, who was booked for a foul that only the referee saw – the booking meant he would miss the West Ham FA Cup game.
Forest were now finding it easier to break through the Reading defence and some good work from Lester and Reid saw Williams slipped through but he stabbed his shot straight at the grateful ‘keeper.
Reid, who had been in the thick of it all afternoon, was the provider for Harewood’s goal on 67 minutes as he slipped through the perfect ball for Harewood to run onto. Harewood then rounded the ‘keeper and slotted the ball home.
The next 15 minutes saw Forest threatening to score as they cut Reading open again and again. Chances fell to Johnson, Lester, Williams, and Reid but all failed to convert.
Then on 84 minutes the referee decided it he needed more attention and as Jack Lester chased Igoe half a pitch length before winning the ball back, he decided he had had enough of this football lark and brandished a second yellow card at Lester.
It didn’t really make a difference to the game as Reading were struggling to get through on goal and as the full time whistle went Forest left to the cheers of the crowd.
The game may have been over but the controversy wasn’t and as the crowd’s cheers for Forest turned to boos for the ref as he was escorted off by stewards, we were treated to the rare sight of an angry Paul Hart marching on to the pitch to confront him.
You knew it must be bad as Paul Hart is not normally a man to take this sort of action, and with his face like thunder he really did look – for a brief moment - as if he might take a swing at the ref.
Fortunately he is a better man than that and settled for some heated words with the ref before he was pulled to one side to allow the ref to leave the pitch.
The referee took the unusual step of coming out to talk to the reporters after the game. I listened on Radio Nottingham as I waited to get out of the car park and he came across as very arrogant about the whole affair saying that Jack Lester was booked for unsporting behaviour after a previous warning and that he was reporting Paul Hart to the FA for using foul and abusive language – good job he can’t report the fans as well, it would take him months.
The reporter then asked him if he could have used common sense in Jack Lester’s booking to which he replied ‘there is no common sense, he tugged the shirt so he had to be booked’.
Paul Hart was told the referee was planning to report him to the FA and he responded: “If I am reported I will take this right to the end, wherever it has to go.
"I didn't think Lester's first booking was justified, let alone the second and the majority of people inside the ground would agree."
And Reading manager, Alan Pardew, appeared to lend support to Hart when he said: "I was surprised by the sending off; to be honest I didn't think Lester's first foul was a yellow card."
The FA would not make any immediate comments on the incidents and spokesman Adrian Bevington said: "We have no comment to make with regard to any incident involving Paul Hart and the match referee until we have studied all the official reports from the game."
Which any football supporter will tell you is FA speak for the referee is always right, nobody else matters so sod you all.