By Ben Reardon – reporter
Joe Garner’s sending off in Preston North End’s 1-1 draw with Wolverhampton Wanderers has once again brought the quality of officiating in the English game back into question.
Garner, who failed in his appeal to get the upcoming suspension overturned, was dismissed 20 minutes into the match by referee Trevor Kettle, for a high-foot on Wolves’ centre-back Danny Batth.
As a result, he will be absent for crucial games against Sheffield Wednesday, Cardiff City and Charlton Athletic.
But should the North End forward have received his marching orders in such controversial fashion? And are officials best to abide by common sense in certain situations, rather than sticking to the letter of the law.
The sending off would also see Lilywhites manager Simon Grayson meet with Mr Kettle half an hour after the game to discuss his issues, in a match which also saw Australia international Bailey Wright sent off for Preston.
Having seen the replay on numerous occasions, in my opinion, Garner wasn’t at all malicious in his attempt to win the ball in a challenge with Batth, as he appeared to have been looking at the flight of the ball, once the connection was made.
Garner didn’t actually hurt his opponent, so should Mr Kettle have avoided brandishing the red card to the Blackburn-born striker?
Over the past ten years, the game has become less and less physical in my eyes. No longer can players get away with tackles or challenges that would have been overlooked a decade ago – and that is down to the officiating.
Refereeing decisions are somewhat spoiling the enjoyment of the game, and ultimately it seems that ach weekend, a referee is at the talking point of the footballing landscape. From the Premier League to the Conference, the issue is never really out of the spotlight, in either a positive or a negative fashion.
For example, in August a similar incident to Garner’s occurred in the Premier League, where Phillipe Coutinho was sent-off in Liverpool’s 3-0 defeat to West Ham United.
However, there is another side to the argument that if officials do not command and grasp the game, sticking to the law could deter players from committing rash challenges in the future.
The sport is played at such a pace at all levels that in some scenarios, referees do make mistakes from time to time. However the Garner sending off raises the questions of judgement and quality of match officiating in England.
In conclusion, I feel that Garner can clearly consider himself unfortunate to be banned for three-games, the question is, can North End cope without his services?