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Apr 26, 2010

Roger Johnson brands ref 'a disgrace'

Birmingham City defender Roger Johnson has claimed Sunday's Midlands derby was "too big" for referee Martin Atkinson and described the official as "a disgrace" following the award of a late penalty to Aston Villa.

• Aston Villa 1-0 Birmingham
• Dave Roberts on Villa penalty

Atkinson left Birmingham's players furious when he penalised Johnson for a challenge on Gabriel Agbonlahor with eight minutes remaining, though replays showed the defender got a touch on the ball. James Milner then scored from 12 yards to give Villa a 1-0 victory.

Birmingham manager Alex McLeish and his Villa counterpart Martin O'Neill disagreed on the validity of the decision, but it was Johnson's outburst that may attract the attention of the football authorities after his withering criticism of Atkinson.

"The referee was a disgrace," Johnson said. "He's ruined the match and clearly shouldn't be doing these kind of games - it was too big for him.

"I got the ball cleanly, everyone could see that, and the ref can't make a decision if he's not sure. The rules say if you're not sure, you don't give a penalty.

"Villa are at home, they've got the crowd behind them, and the ref has made a split-second decision which is plain wrong."

However, former official Graham Poll believes Atkinson took the correct decision when deciding that Johnson had fouled Agbonlahor.

"Martin Atkinson had a superb game yesterday and was correct to award a penalty to Aston Villa," Poll wrote in the Daily Mail. "There is a widely-held view that if a player touches the ball then it cannot be a foul - that is not correct.

"Roger Johnson did play the ball first but it remained within playing distance of Gabriel Agbonlahor. Johnson's challenge meant that he then brought the Villa striker down."

Poll also believes that Birmingham's vociferous complaints to Atkinson should lead to disciplinary action from the Football Association.

"Birmingham's complaints, led by their captain Stephen Carr, were long and loud," Poll wrote. "The number of players surrounding the Atkinson should lead to an FA charge, in addition to the yellow card for Carr, given his comments and Torres-style scuffing of the penalty spot."

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