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Csaba Laszlo <-auth Barry Anderson auth-> Steve Conroy
[D Mackie 13]
13 of 015 Lee Wallace 21 L SPL H

Tynecastle penalty call could lead to SFA action for Hearts boss

IT could only happen at Tynecastle: A penalty is awarded and rescinded within 60 seconds, leaving home players and their manager outraged and supporters questioning officials' motives.
Steve Conroy did little to improve relations between Hearts and the SFA on Saturday during the frantic closing stages of an enthralling match. He acted impulsively first and then stopped to think, not a sensible order in which to work when refereeing a highly-charged SPL fixture.

After granting Hearts an 84th-minute penalty with the match evenly poised at 1-1, Conroy consulted with his far side assistant, Chris Young. From the press box vantage point, admittedly some 60 to 70 yards away, it appeared that Jamie Langfield, the Aberdeen goalkeeper, had felled Michael Stewart as the midfielder charged into his penalty area. Conroy concurred and pointed to the spot but then opted for a belated glance at Young. After a brief conversation between the pair, the referee pointed for a goal kick. Cue bedlam.

Subsequent television replays failed to fully clear the issue up, leaving several pertinent questions unanswered. Conroy did not wait to see whether Young was flagging for a penalty, he awarded it instantly, the inference being that he was certain an offence had occurred. Young said something to change his mind, but what was it? The only certainty is it must have been extremely persuasive.

Secondly, having agreed that Stewart was not impeded, the referee was then obliged to caution the Hearts midfielder for simulation. But that didn't happen either despite Zander Diamond not being content with his lot and chasing the referee making diving gestures. Conroy had to either stick with his original decision to award a penalty or book Stewart. That he did neither emphasised the kind of indecision which enrages coaches and players alike on a regular basis.

Tynecastle regulars need little encouragement to round on a referee, which prompts another question. Would the assistant in question have been happy to intervene if such an incident occurred at Parkhead or Ibrox? More tellingly, would Conroy have been cajoled into changing his mind and going against a home crowd in Glasgow?

Perhaps it was answers to these issues Csaba Laszlo sought as he headed towards the referee at full-time. Fourth official John McKendrick struggled to contain him – the thought arrived that wild horses might toil, such was his fury. The manager may now face disciplinary action from the SFA for remonstrating with officials and Sandy Clark, the Aberdeen coach. McKendrick's actions overstepped those of a peace-keeper, though, as he appeared to assault Laszlo with his substitutes board before pointing aggressively in his face in an effort to restrain the Hungarian.

Laszlo was called to the referee's room after the match with Hearts' managing director Campbell Ogilvie, but publicly he attempted to defuse the controversy, saying: "We had a handshake and it is finished."

Asked if he knew whether he would be reported by the referee, he replied: "I don't know, you must ask the SFA.

"I go on to the pitch after every game. Is there something wrong to go on the field? I did not have any conversation with the fourth official.

"I would like to handshake with the players and he said it is not possible. I don't have any problem. If he tells me to go into the dressing room, I go in.

"The referee did his job and I did my job. After the game, you don't think I am new in football and I must go to the referee. The referee does not change his decision, but he did change one decision. My intention was to go to my players. If you go to the referee you cannot do anything.

"You don't know me. Look, I don't talk about the referee. I don't talk about nobody and I don't touch nobody, abuse nobody or have confrontation with nobody. I was angry that we did not score goals. If he does not give the penalty then you cannot do anything. The question was not the penalty, but why we did not score. Maybe for this I was angry, but not about the referee."

Langfield offered his take on the incident. "I've not touched him," he said of Stewart. "I've seen him coming and knew he was getting there before me so I pulled my hands away. It's actually quite scary how far away he was from me when he fell over. He told me afterwards he thought I was going to hit him and that's why he went down. You've got to give a lot of credit to the linesman."

Conroy upset Tynecastle natives in the first half by ridiculously cautioning Saulius Mikoliunas for his first foul of the afternoon. On that very subject, it is worth raising yet another query. Like when will this blatant victimisation of Miko be addressed by the game's authorities? He barged into Andy Davis and he dived at Hampden. He was wrong, he's been punished, let it go.

Hysteria aside, both teams provided traditional blood-and-thunder entertainment on Saturday. Aberdeen had moved ahead on 13 minutes through Darren Mackie, who eluded Marius Zaliukas all too easily to collect Andrew Considine's through ball and nutmeg Janos Balogh. Seven minutes later, Lee Wallace conducted a neat interchange of passes with Christian Nade and struck the ball high into Langfield's net from a tight angle to restore parity.

Wet and blustery conditions added nerves to the occasion and both teams could have secured victory after the interval. Jared Hodgkiss and Lee Miller both struck woodwork for Aberdeen whilst Nade somehow contrived to nod Bruno Aguiar's corner over the crossbar from four yards.

Substitute Deividas Cesnauskis struck a post late on but a solitary point remains more useful to Jimmy Calderwood than it does Laszlo and Hearts.

Taken from the Scotsman

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