Sports: ‘It was a diabolical decision’ – recalling Lincoln City’s last two controversial trips to Huddersfield Town

Sports: ‘It was a diabolical decision’ – recalling Lincoln City’s last two controversial trips to Huddersfield Town

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Lincoln City make their first visit to Huddersfield Town in 15 years tonight in the first round of the Carabao Cup.

The sides were Division Three promotion rivals when they last met in the play-offs in May 2014, with Huddersfield going through to the final in Cardiff after a disputed penalty in the second leg.

That followed a controversial game between the sides in West Yorkshire during the regular season when a goal by Town striker Pawel Abbott was allowed to stand by referee George Cain, who overruled his flagging linesman, despite appearing to be two yards offside.

The goal proved to be the winner in a 2-1 success for the Terriers, then managed by Peter Jackson, who would manage the Imps later in his career.

We look back on two memorable and controversial games between the Imps and the Terriers.

‘He’ll be getting a zero from me’

The decision to allow Abbott’s goal – which became one of English football’s biggest talking points that season – to stand left City boss Keith Alexander furious.

Speaking after the match, the Imps legend said: “We worked hard, we played well but the referee has done us, there’s no two ways about it.

“The linesman put his flag up straight away, but the referee has over-ruled him – it was a diabolical decision.

“He retires at the end of the season and the sooner the better as far as I’m concerned.

“The referee said it took a deflection off one of the defenders, but Abbott was yards offside as soon as [Efe] Sodje headed the ball forward.

“You have to give referees a mark in your report, and he’ll be getting a zero from me! There are two or three referees in this division who are not doing their jobs properly.”

Keith Alexander during the league defeat to Huddersfield in February 2004
Keith Alexander during the league defeat to Huddersfield in February 2004
(Image: Chris Vaughan)

Meanwhile, Jackson praised Abbott for playing to the whistle.

“It will be replayed time and time again and I’m just delighted that Pav played to the whistle, took the ball round the keeper and put it in the net,” said Jackson.

“That’s what all strikers should do if they haven’t heard a whistle. The linesman flagged because he thought it was offside, but the referee overruled him and that was that.”

Huddersfield celebrate Pawel Abbott's controversial goal against the Imps in February 2004
Huddersfield celebrate Pawel Abbott’s controversial goal against the Imps in February 2004

The fallout from the goal continued, with then Imps chairman Rob Bradley writing to the Football League to complain about Cain’s performance.

“I have never seen anything like it in all the time I’ve been watching Lincoln City,” said Bradley at the time.

“It was thoroughly unsatisfactory, and I hope it doesn’t cost us come the end of the season.

“It left a nasty taste in the mouth, and overall I felt the officials let us down badly.

“Not that I think it will do any good because the referee’s assessor has backed him, but I’ve written to the Football League just to let them know we are not happy with the situation.”

‘I was sickened and disgusted that he had given the penalty’

As it turned out, the controversial goal did not damage the Imps’ play-off hopes, with both sides finishing in the top seven – Huddersfield in fourth, City in seventh.

The Terriers won the first leg at Sincil Bank 2-1, but the tie was turned on his head in first half of the second leg, with quick-fire goals from Richard Butcher and Mark Bailey putting Lincoln 3-2 up on aggregate.

Cue more controversy.

With Huddersfield pushing for an equaliser in the second half, Jamie McCombe was adjudged to have fouled Town legend Andy Booth. Danny Schofield fired home the resulting penalty at the same end of Abbott’s contentious goal three months earlier.

Huddersfield are awarded a penalty against the Imps in the play-off semi-final in 2004
Huddersfield are awarded a penalty against the Imps in the play-off semi-final in 2004
(Image: Chris Vaughan)

Rob Edwards then made it 2-2 on the night (4-3 on aggregate) with seven minutes to go, but the award of Town’s penalty was the main talking point after the game.

Speaking after the match, a heartbroken McCombe said: “I never touched Andy, I was concentrating on the ball all the time, but Boothy’s an old professional and he knew exactly what he was doing when he went down.

“I couldn’t believe he had given it, and to be perfectly honest I was sickened and disgusted that he had given the penalty.

“Things are hard enough as they are without decisions like that. I am gutted because we were cruising and then the penalty has got them back in it.

“Their tails have lifted and it’s spurred them on. Huddersfield have assumed the advantage and gone on to get the equaliser.

“All the lads were in disbelief when it happened because the referee had not actually given it, then for the linesman to say he has seen it, despite being further away, is laughable.”

Some of the 3,000 Imps fans at the play-off semi-final second leg at Huddersfield in 2004
Some of the 3,000 Imps fans at the play-off semi-final second leg at Huddersfield in 2004

Imps fans after the play-off defeat to Huddersfield
Imps fans after the play-off defeat to Huddersfield
(Image: Chris Vaughan)

Alexander added: “I’ve been at the club two years [in his second spell as manager] and I don’t think we’ve had a decision go our way in that time.

“It was diabolical. The referee was a few yards away, yet the linesman gave it.

“I feel sorry for the fans and the players. The officials can go away and forget about it, but we can’t.”

 



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