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Anybody that has ever had to travel across London during the rush hour will already be aware that embarking on such a journey can be a pretty thankless task. Swollen by commuters from outside of the city it often feels as if the whole place is about to collapse in upon itself, and it only takes the slightest disruption anywhere for everything to start grinding to a halt. Such a disruption occurred this morning when a lone man climbed onto the roof of a house in Leytonstone and threatened to jump from the roof onto the A12 road below. The road was closed by the police and remained closed until late this evening, when the man gave himself up and was arrested.
The ensuing traffic chaos had a predictable effect on a particularly busy corner of the capital. The roads ground to a halt, and this had an effect on this evening’s League One match between Leyton Orient and Gillingham. Shortly before kick-off, Gillingham only had nine available players but, perhaps surprisingly, referee Andy D’Urso made Gillingham go ahead and start the match. FA rules, after all, state that a team can start a match with seven players, and a refusal to play could be seen as effectively forfeiting the match. Fortunately, Gillingham managed to kick off with eleven players (albeit eleven Gillingham players wearing Orient away kits), but they still lost the game – an almost creditable 3-1 defeat, considering the circumstances.
Was D’Urso right to make the teams kick off on time, though? Well, the answer to that is probably “yes and no”. On the one hand, FA rules state very clearly that not having eleven players is not sufficient grounds to a match to not start. Considering this, and that some of the Gillingham players may well not have been contactable (particularly as has been some of the Gillingham players were travelling on the London Underground). What good would putting the kick-off back by, say, half an hour if the A12, the road that was causing all of the problems, remained closed and there could be no guarantee of when the missing players would turn up?
The flipside to this argument is an obvious one. The referee has the jurisdiction to postpone the kick-off, should he wish to. It may have been the fair thing to do to allow a little extra time before the match kicked off. After all, what harm would it have done? One may pause to wonder why professional players were turning up in dribs and drabs as opposed to altogether, but this is not uncommon in the lower divisions. Gillingham are based in Kent, but their players are likely to live across the south-east of England. It wouldn’t make a great deal of sense for them to all travel down to Kent and then up to east London without a good reason. This, however, wouldn’t be the problem of the referee, who chose to interpret the rules in the way in which he saw fit.
It’s also worth pointing out that Gillingham weren’t only club to suffer as a result of these circumstances. The crowd at Brisbane Road this evening was just 3,168 – Leyton Orient’s lowest home crowd of the season. Many people, apparently, either decided that it was more hassle than they could be bothered with on a cold Tuesday night at the start of December (not an entirely unreasonable reaction), or simply didn’t make it there at all. Considering that the A12 was only reopened after 11.00 this evening, there may still be people that haven’t made it home yet, and some of them might not have even seen a football match this evening. Orient can usually depend on around 5,000 on average for league matches, and the missing crowd’s contribution to the club, including entry, food, and programmes could therefore have cost them over £50,000. Not a life-changing amount of money, but not completely inconsiderable either.
It is possible, therefore, to have sympathy for both clubs. Perhaps, however, we should finish up by taking a moment to consider the Gillingham travelling support, 700-odd of whom made a fairly tortuous midweek trip up to Leyton, only to see their team turn out in an Orient change kit and then, after all of that, lost the match. Gillingham have now drawn one and lost nine of their ten away league matches this season. Sometimes football, like life, can be very unfair indeed.
Ian began writing Twohundredpercent in May 2006. He lives in Brighton. He has also written for, amongst others, Pitch Invasion, FC Business Magazine, The Score, When Saturday Comes, Stand Against Modern Football and The Football Supporter. Ian was the first winner of the Socrates Award For Not Being Dead Yet at the 2010 NOPA awards for football bloggers.
Nice article Ian. As one of the fortunate fans to get there and get home relatively easily, I was there for the full 90 minutes and hearing the decision of D’Urso I wasn’t in the least bit surprised. Referees succeed and fail often as a result of common sense. Those that use it tend to do well in the game. Those that don’t tend not to.
Andy D’Urso could easily have put the kickoff back 15 minutes, or at the very least could have given Mark Stimson an extra 10-15 minutes to contact his players. That never happened – and shows why some referees are viewed in the light that they are. Mention the name Andy D’Urso to most lower division fans and I’d suggest the response would be pretty consistent, and not complimentary either. Thankfully we have an excellent ref for Saturday’s game with Carlisle, Jarnail Singh.
But, D’Urso’s common sense bypass aside, the game was a disappointment for Gills fans. We started poorly (not surprising, considering the chaos leading up to kickoff) but got ourselves back into the game. But unfortunately some of our key players had a poor game, we gave the ball away too easily and we deservedly got beat.
The fans who went (especially those who never made it, or only got to Brisbane Road late on) deserve great credit, but unfortunately tonight was one of those games where events just conspire against you.
Even the halftime coffee was rotten…
As someone who likes to have a look at Orient when I can’t get to see Havant & ‘Ville, can I just endorse the above comments on the half-time coffee.
I was fortunate enough to have only make short tube journey from work, so it wasn’t until arrving at the ground, watching the players warm up that we noticed something was slightly off. Seeing the Gills warm up in strangly unfamiliar attire!
D’Urso, played the rules correctly, but perfectly highlighted that there isn’t enough common sense in football. 15 minutes, would have meant a short delay, but ultimately a better spectacle for the 3,000 people who made the effort.
According to the press this morning, Mark Stimson even had our reserve goalkeeper playing at right-wing. Considering he is currently on the transfer list, it may have proved to have been the making of him!
As it was, the Gills didn’t turn up in more than one way, we were poor, circumstances aside, we ought to have, and should have performed a lot better.
And so our away woes continue, and on last nights evidence, it may continue for a while yet.
being a Leyton Orient fan, you can tell that I’m quite pleased with what happened as I had a very nasty suspicion that we’d lose to Gillingham (particularly after seeing their away record). But I do think D’Urso’s idea was moronic, allowing for less of a contest, after all we did score 3 at home for the first time in 2 years and the first win at home by more than 1 in 18 months.
It’s not like he’s not had previous, even going as far as 1994-95 when he awarded 2 last minute penalties for Fulham when they played Ashford Town in the FA Cup and playing 8 mins of stoppage time (only know that cos a member of the family was in goal for Ashford) – including his controversal decisions at Old Trafford and St Mary’s in the Premiership – it’s fair to say he’s a bit of a clown.
Still he’s reffed 2 wins out of 2 for us this season, long may he continue to do so.
P.S. Haven’t Gillingham in the last year or two had to borrow a kit 3 times? Just something I heard from someone.
“P.S. Haven’t Gillingham in the last year or two had to borrow a kit 3 times? Just something I heard from someone.”
No idea why they would say that…the only other time I remember Gillingham having to borrow another teams kit was in 2001 when we had to play Millwall in their green away kit (and beat them..)
Yes, Andy D’Urso – the only man in the entire ground to see a push when St Albans ‘scored’ in the FA Trophy Semi Final 2nd leg that would have put us 3-1 up with 15 to go agaist Forest Green in the 98/99 season
In the end we lost 3-2 with 2 late goals and there went our only chance of ever playing at Wembley
To this day I stil curse that clowns name
Andy bloody D’Urso, grrrrr the name still brings a little blood to the boil. Lincs Derby 2005, Lincoln basically kicked chunks out of us for 60 minutes and he gave us nothing.
Extract from the match report…
“Abbey made two heroic saves on the half hour, first parrying Yeo’s shot and then tipping Francis Green’s follow-up away for a corner. Boston had a penalty claim turned down when Simon Rusk hit the ground following a challenge by Kevin Sandwith.
At the start of the second half Steven Boyack came on for Dean West, who had picked up a knee injury. Two minutes into the half Boston had a second penalty claim turned down after Danny Thomas appeared to be brought down by Matt Bloomer.”
Completely agree re Mr Singh the referee, I think its fair to say he gave the best performance I’ve ever seen from a man in black the season Boston ‘won’ the conference in our game at Farnborough. When I’ve seen him on TV he always seems pretty anonymous, the sign of a good ref. Sadly he’ll always be in the lower divisions because he refs using common sense, a commodity frowned upon by assessors and administrators alike…
Re Durso, I remember the game well, he was still on the Prem list at the time and I think he took us 4 times in our league career, he never impressed.
Gillingham have had problems travelling to away games before, they tried to reach Barrow in 1961 for FL game and had problems with the London traffic, missed their train, hired a plane and then with the help of a police escort from Blackpool to Barrow eventually arrived, but a little late which meant the game was abandoned after 74 mnutes, for more details have a look at http://gillingham.clubfans.co.uk
Andy D’Urso always seemed to have a vendetta against Steve Howard when he was at Luton. Every time he reffed one of our game’s he’d try and find a reason to red card Howard, and often found one. He was also in charge of the game when Mike Newell made sexist comments about the female assistant Amy Rayner, many felt he should have had more to say about the appalling performance by D’Urso that day but instead vented on poor Amy. However the last few times he’s come to Kenilworth Road he’s been OK, not great but anything is an improvement on the old days!