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<-Srce <-Type Scotsman ------ Report Type-> Srce->
Stephen Frail <-auth Stephen Halliday auth-> Mike Tumilty
[G Murray 75] ;[P Di Giacomo 83]
12 of 015 ----- L SPL H

'What's the point?' fumes Levein

Stephen Halliday
THERE was a moment during Craig Levein's extraordinary post-match denunciation of referee Mike McCurry's performance on Saturday when it seemed the Dundee United manager might even begin to shed tears of rage.
It was impossible not to have some sympathy for Levein, especially as Motherwell's defeat of Aberdeen later in the day formally ended his team's prospects of finishing third in the SPL and earning qualification for the Uefa Cup next season.

The SFA's disciplinary committee, however, is unlikely to show any compassion when they consider Levein's comments. For while his anger was understandable, the clearly calculated manner in which he expressed it was ill-advised and possibly even defamatory.

Essentially, Levein accused McCurry of cheating when he failed to award United a penalty in the 55th minute of a dramatic match, David Weir clearly making contact with Noel Hunt as the United striker raced towards goal following a mistake from the Rangers defender.

"He (McCurry] knew it was a penalty, but the game was so important to Rangers, he didn't give it," said Levein.

It is one thing to accuse referees of incompetence, and there has been plenty of unarguable evidence to that effect in high-profile SPL matches in recent weeks, but quite another to cast aspersions on the integrity of the officials. Levein can expect to pay a heavy price for doing so.

"Mike could have phoned me this morning to say Rangers were going to get three points and tell us to just stay in the house," added the apoplectic United manager. "It is impossible to win here in important games. The ref has bottled it, he knew if he gave the penalty he would have to send Davie Weir off. But who gives a toss about Dundee United? I told him we would be as well not turning up. What's the point?"

United were also left bewildered by McCurry's decision, after consultation with his assistant Stuart Macaulay, to disallow a 72nd minute 'goal'. Danny Swanson's shot took a deflection off Weir to beat the wrong-footed Neil Alexander, but the officials ruled it out because United player David Robertson was in an offside position. Lee Wilkie, the United captain, was only slightly less polemic in his appraisal of McCurry than his manager.

"The referee didn't know himself why the goal was disallowed," claimed Wilkie. "He started off saying it had hit Robertson and went in, then the linesman changed it and said it was because Robertson was in the vision of the goalkeeper. But he was nowhere near the keeper.

"I'm struggling for words to describe how I feel. We had a goal disallowed for nothing, it's unbelievable. Even when we did score, I looked at the referee and he must have taken about five seconds to decide whether to give the goal or not. I don't know if he was trying to find something wrong with it and couldn't. It was getting to the stage where it was laughable.

"You get to the point where you feel like giving up and walking off the pitch. You're not going to do that, obviously, but you just get so despondent with it all. Sometimes when you come to Ibrox or Parkhead, you expect it to be like that. It's in your head already that big decisions will go against you. When we were last at Parkhead, we didn't play that well, but there were a lot of strange decisions went against us. It could just be paranoia from teams coming to Glasgow, I don't know."

Wilkie also condemned Rangers striker Daniel Cousin who was extremely fortunate only to be cautioned for butting the giant defender in similarly crass manner to the offence which saw him sent off in the Uefa Cup semi-final against Fiorentina.

"We got into a bit of a tangle and then he stuck the head on me," said Wilkie. "I'm lucky I'm five inches taller than him, or I would have got it in the face. He got a booking for it and so did I, which just summed up the day really."

There was not even the merest whiff of the controversy to come when Rangers, playing with energy and confidence, took a 2-0 lead inside the opening 18 minutes courtesy of Nacho Novo.

The Spanish striker cutely earned a free-kick in a tangle with Mark Kerr before finding himself unmarked to head home Kevin Thomson's precise delivery of the set-piece, then latched on to a head flick from Cousin to smash a terrific left-foot volley beyond United keeper Lukasz Zaluska from a difficult angle.

United's goal with 14 minutes remaining, Mark de Vries heading home a fine cross from Danny Grainger, ensured a nervous finale for Rangers until substitute Jean-Claude Darcheville slotted home Barry Ferguson's cutback in stoppage time to keep the championship destiny of Walter Smith's team in their own hands. Smith was relieved that knocks sustained by Thomson and Sasa Papac during the afternoon do not threaten their participation in the Uefa Cup final on Wednesday night.

"I'm proud of the way they have handled this season, but we don't want to be sitting at the end of it saying 'that was great, but we didn't win the trophies we wanted,'" Smith said. "We have got to find a way to win the last few games.

"The boys deserved their ovation today, they deserve everything they get this season. Whether they get it or not is another matter."

Taken from the Scotsman

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