Hands up - you fluffed it
Reporter: MATTHEW CHAMBERS
Date online: 11 March 2013
Tranmere 1, Athletic 0
Officials blunder over another decisive moment
QUITE what more Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro could have done to draw attention to his handball is unclear.
The big clue was that the Tranmere striker hit the ball in the air with his arm.
Akpa Akpro had misjudged the ball as it bounced off the bumpy surface at Prenton Park in the 38th minute, when the tight contest was still scoreless.
Referee Tim Robinson may not have had a clear view but his assistant, who had an unimpaired line of sight, can only have thought the contact between arm and ball accidental.
About as accidental as the sinking of the Belgrano...
Even Rovers boss Ronnie Moore – who more than anyone likes to get one over on his former club – leaned across the divide between technical areas and whispered to disbelieving opposite number Tony Philliskirk that it was a “stone wall” penalty.
And so it was that Athletic’s trial by officials continued in a third consecutive defeat.
Simpson could also have been awarded a penalty in the second half as he fell from a challenge as the visitors chased the game.
If such rank luck evens out, Athletic have got a sackload of good fortune to enjoy in the final 11 games of the season.
There is an important caveat, though, to this latest tale of refereeing ineptitude: one which will again doubtless pass unnoticed by the FA.
And it is that once again Athletic didn’t work the opposition goalkeeper quite enough, for all the second-half pressure they exerted on a team gunning for promotion.
Only an average of one goal a game has arrived so far this season. Jose Baxter has 10 of those 35 league strikes to his name. The remainder of the starting line-up here had a total of 10 between them. There is a deeply frustrating reluctance to pull the trigger at times.
If Baxter doesn’t score, and he is less likely to from a deeper role, then who will?
Athletic need to find an answer - one that involves more than simply hoping for a break. One that can be put into action tomorrow night against fellow strugglers Hartlepool.
Aside from the lapses involved in Max Power’s well-taken goal just after the hour, there wasn’t too much wrong with Athletic’s work - except impotence and ill-fortune in opposition territory.
Wesolowski, who came off late in the game with a nasty gash to the head, slashed wide and before the big penalty claim returning striker Lee Barnard headed straight at Fon Williams as Athletic at least ended the first half on the front foot.
Indeed, the visitors were the side who looked more likely to open the scoring until Power beat Wesolowski and fired low inside the near post from 20 yards.
Wesolowski and Baxter went close, while Simpson was a tad unfortunate to see his header drift narrowly wide and over in added time.
We have been here before in a season in which Athletic have failed to score in 11 games – almost a third of them.
For all the justified finger-pointing at referees, more needs to be done to improve that record.
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