For about a quarter of an hour of Cardiff City’s game at Blackburn this afternoon I forgot who was refereeing the match. In fact, I didn’t give the ref a first thought, let alone a second one, but, with the first of what became a series of questionable and sometimes plain odd decisions, I remembered soon enough – Bobby bloody Madley.
I had very little hope of us getting anything from this game once I discovered Madley would be taking charge of it a couple of days ago. The man was a Premier League referee until four or five years ago when a “joke” he made in very bad taste, led to him being dismissed from his job and for a while he took charge of matches in Norway before he made a comeback in this country in the EFL. Madley then made it back on to the list of Premier League referees (he sent off Diego Costa in his comeback game, Brentford v Wolves, last year)
In different circumstances, I would admire Madley’s fortitude and determination to continue with his refereeing career at the highest level possible, but i cannot because he is a very poor referee based on games I’ve seen him take charge of in recent years.
There are City fans who believe that the refereeing profession in general are institutionally biased against Welsh clubs. I don’t think that, but why not the occasional referee? When you think of the thousands of men, and women, who have taken charge of Football League games in the last century and more, there has to be a small number who let their dislike of the Welsh influence their decision making – the same must also apply to particular areas or cities in England.
Now, I’m not going to accuse Bobby Madley of deliberately favouring English teams over Welsh ones because I’m sure that if I looked back through his record, I’d find plenty of games he’s taken charge of where a Welsh side had beaten an English one, but it is true to say that in recent years, Welsh clubs have suffered badly at his hands.
Madley’s name is mud in Newport after his bizarre handling of County’s Play Off with Morecambe at Wembley in 2021 when his decision making regarding penalties in particular played a huge part in deciding that Morecambe went up to League One and Newport stayed in League Two.
Around about a year ago, Madley disallowed a Callum Robinson goal for offside when the ball broke to him off a Coventry player in a game we lost 1-0 at Cardiff City Stadium and now today we have the disallowing of a Dimitrios Goutas goal from a Joe Ralls corner for offside against Karlan Grant who was, allegedly, interfering with play – again, Madley’s decision consigned us to a 1-0 defeat..
Now, I should say here that Erol Bulut was saying that he could see why the goal was disallowed after the game and the replays show that Grant may just have been in an offside position, but I’ll outline soon why I think it was a valid goal – for now, I’ll just mention that Blackburn captain Dominic Hyam exactly echoed Coventry boss Mark Robins’ words last year when he said he thought that his team had “got away with one” thanks to the ref.
For myself, Grant clearly did not touch the ball, so he must have been deemed to have been interfering with play in that he was in home goalkeeper Leopold Whalstadt’s line of vision. Grant was close to the keeper, but I thought he may have been just to his right and not blocking the view of the ball which was bulleted in off Goutas’ head from about seven yards out. Whalstadt was never going to save the ball from such close range anyway and, as such, I don’t get how Grant was interfering with play – it wasn’t as if Whalstadt was going to save Goutas’ header if Grant had not been there and his reaction (and that of the whole Blackburn team) was typical of someone who had just conceded a legitimate goal – I didn’t see a single appeal for offside.
I often watch old Match of the Days and Big Matches on You Tube and am surprised by goals that were disallowed for offside back then that would be allowed without a moment’s hesitation today – Madley’s decision this afternoon was straight out of the seventies and eighties, but, as someone remarked on the messageboard this evening, a goal would have been given today in nine out of ten cases. Based on the last two games of ours he’s taken, Cardiff put the ball into the net and Madley starts trying to find a reason to disallow it.
I’ll get to the game itself shortly, but I will say that I thought that Blackburn just edged it and maybe deserved to win, but a goal given then would have led to a completely different set of circumstances with the hone side, who have already lost three times on their own ground this season, under pressure in the second half.
Returning to Madley, there were an increasing number of dubious decisions against City through the second half, but the daftest was when a Blackburn player (think it might have been Hyam) prevented Jak Alnwick from making a quick clearance. He should have been booked for that, but wasn’t – Jamilu Collins was though, presumably for protesting against the prevention of a City counter attacking opportunity.
Now, I know I’m a bit vague about who the Blackburn player involved was, but it’s not my job to know who he was – it is Bobby Madley’s though and he didn’t have a clue.
I’ll finish on the referee by saying that, if it was me making such decisions at Cardiff City, I’d be making a polite request to the EFL on Monday that they do not allocate Bobby Madley to any more of our games in the future.
I’ve been writing these post game reviews on City for over fourteen years now and I think it’s fair to say I’m not in the habit of blaming officials for our defeats. In fact, I doubt it if I’ve had five full blown rants to that effect in all of that time, but the last two have been about Bobby bloody Madley.
Anyway, on to the game. Erol Bulut predictably stuck with a three man midfield of Sipios, Wintle and Ralls, but Josh Bowler was in for Ollie Tanner and Yakou Meite came back from injury a little sooner than expected to be named on the bench.
It was a selection which confirmed that City would be intent on keeping their defensive shape above all else and, as the manager confirmed again in his pre game media briefing, at least as much emphasis was placed on what his team did without the ball as with it.
This approach saw only a scuffed Bowler shot not too far wide to get mildly excited about in the first forty five moments, but, of course, this is to ignore Goutas’ header – if that counted, Bulut’s plan would have been working perfectly.
For Blackburn’s part, they looked the better footballing side and buzzed around our goal, but, apart from Joe Rankin-Costello’s shot jabbed just wide, there wasn’t much to excite the home fans either.
In fact, for the second successive City game, there were just three on target efforts throughout and, just as against Watford, we conceded from the only on target shot from our opponents (apparently we had two on target efforts, but I can only recall one, from Ollie Tanner, at the moment).
The goal we conceded against Watford was a gift and, in a different way, so was the one which decided this game early in the second half as a Blackburn centreback was allowed to win an uncontested header to Tyrese Dolan in midfield who slipped a neat pass through to Rankin-Costello who scored despite Alnwick getting a hand to the ball. In each case, the Blackburn man involved did not have a City player within yards of them – Mark McGuinness has had a good season up to now, but here, he got dragged into a kind of no man’s land for centrebacks which created the space for Rankin-Costello to run on to.
For the next half an hour or so, Bulut went from one extreme to another as Meite, Tanner, Callum Robinson and Rubin Colwill came on to leave Siopis almost as a one man midfield.
Before that however, a lucky rebound off McGuinness should have seen Rankin-Costello get a second, but Perry Ng got across from full back to make a great saving tackle.
City forced corners, Robinson shot a couple of feet wide after receiving a pass from Ng and Tanner drew the best save of the game from Whalstadt – in fact, it’s the only save I can remember, but it was a good one!
So, it’s one goal (from a set piece) in three games now for City as we continue to look a lot more like the 22/23 version of Cardiff City than we did in the first month and a half of the season – was Aaron Ramsey really making such a difference back then?
The Academy team drew 1-1 at lunchtime with Plymouth Argyle – Trey George put them into an early lead, but a ninetieth minute penalty secured a draw for the visitors.