Robert Madley, who only refereed the Watford-Stoke game after Martin Atkinson stood down, awarded more fouls than seen in any other game this season, much to the frustration of the Watford fans, players and head coach Walter Mazzarri.
Madley awarded 38 fouls at Vicarage Road this afternoon, largely against players in yellow, and dished out five yellow cards, two of which were to Miguel Britos. He also missed a nudge on Valon Behrami for the only goal of the game, one that goalscorer Charlie Adam was surprised was allowed. You hope it wasn’t a diversionary tactic, an easy way to deflect attention away from the anaemic nature of his side’s display, but Mazzarri was distinctly unimpressed with how Madley, who didn’t show a single card to a Stoke player, handled the game.
“With the added time he gave at the end, you cannot give only four minutes,” said Mazzarri. “You have to look at the whole game, the distribution of yellow cards, the fouls and the goal they scored. But it can happen for someone to have a bad day. He had a bad day.”
Watford didn’t really help their cause. Nordin Amrabat, who had been unfairly pinged for two nearly identical soft challenges, gave the assistant referee a gob full and was booked. Miguel Britos was retrospectively booked for a late challenge on Xhedran Shaqiri; Jose Holebas petulantly booted the ball away; Britos then needlessly tugged back Shaqiri at the death before, stupidly, Valon Behrami did the same just a few minutes later. Watford have now received more yellow cards (35) than anyone else in the league and a league-high nine for dissent. Both Britos and Behrami will be suspended against West Brom.
“Yes, of course, the referee cannot be an alibi for myself or my players,” said Mazzarri. “My players need to play better but then also understand not to react the way they reacted with the referee. They need to focus on playing football.”
Mark Hughes, who put himself about as a player and is no shrinking violet as a manager, added fuel to the fire by, tongue in cheek, suggesting Madley got every call right. “They were clear fouls,” he said. “I don’t think he got many wrong – but you knew I’d say that.”
On a booking, Holebas and Amrabat were both taken off for more attack-minded players but they could also have been hooked to avoid them joining the list of suspended players.
“He really is walking a tightrope, Holebas,” said Derek Payne at half-time on BBC Three Counties radio. “He looks like he might have taken a knock too and I’m sure they’ll want to calm him down at half-time.”
Joked Jon Marks: “It might be a case of picking him up and chucking him in the ice bath at half-time.”
Jermaine Jenas was summarising the game for BBC Radio 5 live. “You can hear the frustration from the Watford fans because they feel that every decision since that yellow card for Amrabat is going against them,” he said. “This atmosphere is testing on the referee. The fans jeering every decision could start adding pressure and force him to start making mistakes. He made no errors in the first half but he needs to keep his head or poor decisions could start creeping in.”
Madley, who sent off Valon Behrami against Swansea City last season, did get the decision to send off Britos spot on. The Uruguayan didn’t, and couldn’t, have any complaints.
“The first yellow for Britos I can see that maybe his technique was in question there, but not sure why he needed to do that [foul Shaqiri] there,” Thierry Henry said on Sky Sports. “The second I understand his actions because it was on the counterattack, and it was a definite yellow.”
“Kind of sums it up for Watford,” said BBC commentator Alastair Bruce-Ball. “That’s the right decision from Robert Madley.”
Madley had only dished out six yellow cards to players in yellow in the seven Watford matches he has officiated but he got it in the neck from fans after this card-happy display. Below is a selection of the views on Twitter: