REMEMBER Nigel Bannister? He was the unfortunate linesman who gave the ‘goal that never was’ during Reading’s 2-2 draw at Watford in September. If it’s true that every action has an equal and opposite reaction, Bannister’s came at Bolton yesterday.
Last night’s final match: Bolton 0 Wigan 1
Commentator: John Roder
Early in the second half, with Wigan leading through an Amr Zaki penalty, Bolton defender Danny Shittu’s goalbound header was nodded away by Wilson Palacios – possibly from behind the line.
Bannister, who gave Reading a goal at Vicarage Road when the ball crossed the line outside the posts, ruled this time that Shittu hadn’t scored. Had the linesman who awarded a ‘ghost goal’ now failed to give one that should have counted? The TV replays were inconclusive.
If you type “Nigel Bannister” and “goal that never was” into Google, you get 409 links (probably 410 now this blog post is up). Included on this list are articles in the Guardian, the Daily Mail and the Sun that refer to the Watford-Reading incident as “the goal that never was”.
Note that this phrase contains the word ‘goal’ – even though it quite clearly should not have been a goal at Watford. This is worth bearing in mind when you read the following post-match exchange between commentator John Roder and Bolton manager Gary Megson.
Roder: Well, Gary, let’s cut to the quick. The goal you thought you should have had. Was it in?
Megson: Well, you’ve called it ‘the goal’ rather than ‘the opportunity’. So by virtue of that, there’s the answer to your own question. We’ve seen it, and we think it’s in.
I can understand Megson’s frustration, but a goal can’t be awarded purely on the basis of a reporter using the word ‘goal’ in the process of describing it. If it could, then everyone owes Bannister an apology over what happened at Vicarage Road.
Back in the studio, Gary Lineker described it as ‘The Shittu incident’ which, at the very least, surely entitles Danny Shittu to march into the studio during the next edition of Match of the Day, and shout in his most sarcastic voice: “Oh, ha ha ha. Like no-one’s done that joke before, big ears.” (In fairness, I should point out that Lineker made a joke about his own ears elsewhere in last night’s programme, for reasons far too complex to go into.)
Aside from that incident, the most intriguing thing to come out of Wigan’s win was the revelation that the manager Steve Bruce can alter the Match of the Day running order.
You see, Bolton v Wigan was not originally intended to be the final game on last night’s MOTD. I know this because, whenever a regular MOTD is scheduled, the BBC Sport website posts a provisional running order shortly after the games have finished.
As you can see below, the last game was provisionally slated to be Arsenal’s uninspiring 1-0 win over Portsmouth.
But Bruce’s comments in his post-match interview were too good an opportunity to miss.
“It wasn’t a classic by any stretch of the imagination,” Bruce said. “In fact, I hope it’s last on Match of the Day. We usually are.
“Tonight, I think we deserve to be last in the running order, because it was never a classic.”
Cut back to Lineker in the studio: “Well, we were going to put you on first, Steve, but since you asked, we decided to put you on at the end instead.”
You can laugh and joke, but this is the second time this season that Bruce has publicly stated his desire to appear last on Match of the Day. He did it after their goalless draw against Stoke last month – and that game was also put on last.
That, to me, suggests one thing. The fight to finish top of the Gubbometer is getting dirty.
1. Fulham: 6 (GD: +1; CD: +1)
2. Wigan: 5 (GD: 0; CD: +2)
3. Middlesbrough: 5 (GD: 0; CD: +1)
4. Capello: 4 (GD: +1; CD: +4)
5=. Blackburn: 4 (GD: 0; CD: 0)
5=. West Brom: 4 (GD: 0; CD: 0)
7=. Bolton: 3 (GD: 0; CD: 0)
7=. Stoke: 3 (GD: 0; CD: 0)
9. West Ham: 2 (GD: 0; CD: +2)
10. Newcastle: 2 (GD: 0; CD: 0)
11=. Gubba: 1 (GD: +1; CD: +1)
11=. Manchester City: 1 (GD: +1; CD +1)
13. Portsmouth: 1 (GD: 0; CD: +1)
14=. Everton: 1 (GD: 0; CD: 0)
14=. Hull: 1 (GD: 0; CD: 0)
14=. Sunderland: 1 (GD: 0; CD: 0)
14=. Tottenham: 1 (GD: 0; CD: 0)
18=. Arsenal: 0
18=. Aston Villa: 0
18=. Chelsea: 0
18=. Liverpool: 0
18=. Manchester United: 0
(NB: Teams level on points will be separated by Gubba difference: the number of times a team is last on Match of the Day with Tony Gubba commentating. If they are still level, they will be separated by Capello difference: the number of times a team is last on MOTD with Fabio Capello present.)