The Goal That Never Was

It was, by any standards, the most bizarre moment of the football season so far, and it’s difficult to imagine that it will be bettered. During Saturday afternoon’s match in the Championship between Watford and Reading, a goal was awarded that was not only controversial but didn’t actually happen at all. The strangeness started after thirteen minutes of the match, when Stephen Hunt’s corner bounced off Peter Eustace and well wide of the Watford goal. Linesman Nigel Bannister called referee Stuart Atwell and advised him to award a goal, which he duly did. John-Joe O’Toole and Jon Harley were booked in the ensuing melee, but the goal stood. First of all, then, the case for the defence for the referee. While the referee obviously has the final say in all matters of this nature, it is a natural reaction that if a linesman flags for a goal, a goal is given. The Watford team’s reaction was understandable, but this reaction would have been the same had the ball landed three feet over the line. It was a case of it being the defence that cried wolf. Secondly, Atwell showed considerable bravery in awarding Reading a clear penalty with three minutes to play. It would have been understandable had he sought to even things up by not giving a clear foul. The conversion of the penalty tied things up at...

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