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By ESPN Staff

Football League rule out replay for Watford

The Football League have confirmed that there is no prospect of the Championship clash between Watford and Reading being replayed.

Linesman Nigel Bannister flagged for a goal instead of a corner after the ball crossed the goal-line wide of the goal, following a challenge involving John Eustace and Royals striker Noel Hunt.

Despite not a single Reading player appealing for the `goal' 25-year-old referee Stuart Attwell gave Steve Coppell's men a 1-0 lead.

The match eventually finished 2-2 and, after reviewing the evidence, the Professional Game Match Officials board have admitted that it was "an error of judgment."

Royals manager Steve Coppell offered to replay the game if required but Andy Williamson, the League's Chief Operating Officer, insisted that Attwell's decision must remain final.

He said: "The Laws of the Game give no discretion in these matters - the referee's decision regarding whether a goal is scored or not is final and binding.

"Given this explicit position, the League cannot intervene".

Coppell had earlier said: "If the authorities decide a replay is the correct thing to do then I've got no objections whatsoever.

"I'm not sure there's a precedent but if that's what people decide then I am quite happy to do it.

"We don't want to be seen to be taking advantage of anything.

"I have sympathy with Watford and I really don't know what to say to make it right.

"But if the Football League phone me now and say something was definitely wrong I'm happy to go along with it."

The PGMO statement, released earlier today, read: "PGMO have analysed the incident at Watford where the referee, after consultation with his assistant, awarded a goal to Reading. It is clear that the ball did not cross the goal-line between the goalposts.

"According to the laws of the game, the decision of the referee, regarding facts connected with play are final and that includes whether a goal is scored or not. The referee cannot change that decision once the game has been restarted.

"Football is a human game played at a fast pace where mistakes are made by players and match officials alike.

"We regret this error of judgment and will now work with the officials concerned to determine how this occurred in an attempt to minimise such mistakes in the future."

Former Premier League referee Dermot Gallagher believes Bannister should not be punished for the error and should instead be given counselling to come to terms with it.

Gallagher told Sky Sports: "It was a lack of concentration and a massive blip by the assistant.

"Whatever we say about it will not put it right, it's just a massive mistake.

"What we need to do is counsel him. He's been on the league for 10 years and a knee-jerk reaction of kicking him out will do him no good and do the game no good.

"He's made a mistake toward the end of his career but we need to look at how this occurred. What was his mindset and how did he compute that in his mind to make that decision?

"We need to get his confidence back. He must be at rock bottom after the hammering he's had this weekend but let's get him back out refereeing."

It had been suggested that a precedent had been set after an FA Cup tie between Arsenal and Sheffield United in 1999 was replayed.

On that occasion Kanu intercepted a throw-in after the ball had been kicked out to allow an injured player to be treated and crossed for Marc Overmars to score.

The Blades were incensed and the game was later replayed with Arsene Wenger's side again running out winners.

However while the Football Association did not comment on the matter this time the feeling in Soho Square is that a decision taken over a cup competition could not be allowed to affect a league game.

Whereas the only teams affected by that tie being replayed where the two involved, clearly the other 22 members of the Championship could see matters of promotion or relegation decided should the points change hands after a replay.

Watford were also keen to discuss the bookings handed to Will Hoskins and Jobi McAnuff after their protests to Attwell about the goal but as there is no appeal procedure for yellow cards the cautions will stand.


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