Andrew Dallas was disgraceful today. He had two key calls to make in that match and he blew them both.
Or perhaps that’s being too harsh on him.
Let’s put it in a way that may be more accurate; he did exactly what was expected of him back home both times.
Dallas is no lover of Celtic. It runs in the blood. His father was sacked over a sectarian email and others should have followed him out the door at the SFA.
There are some in our press, and amongst the games governing body, who have attempted to rehabilitate his reputation.
That shouldn’t and can’t and won’t happen with a stone bigot, which for all his protestations is exactly what Hugh Dallas is and his dismissal proved that quite incontrovertibly.
We are not saying his son is the same … but is it a stretch to suggest that the mind-set which led to Dallas Snr. being given his jotters might have spread further in his household? Celtic should have their eyes on Dallas Jnr at all times.
His most notorious individual display as a referee so far came last season when he gave the Ibrox club four penalties in a single game … an unprecedented series of decisions which sparked disbelief and scorn in equal measure.
Three of the four were highly dubious to say the least.
Steven Gerrard actually moaned after the match that he hadn’t given five.
Dallas wasn’t able to affect the outcome today, but he denied us a stonewall penalty and punished an appalling, high, studs up challenge on Jeremie Frimpong with a yellow card instead of the straight red that it merited.
Lennon said after the game that the player may have sustained ligament damage; if so he’s facing a spell on the side-lines and his attacker gets to play the next match.
No SFA panel can touch him because Dallas administered a card.
To be frank, Celtic should be demanding answers … but as usual they would be too little, too late. Because nothing can be done. Refereeing reform is the third key area where this club has lamentably failed at the SFA after financial fair play and fit and proper persons.
We had a chance to do all this way in advance of this campaign and we have not done so. To a certain degree, then, we’ve left this in the lap of the Gods. Every now and again we get a reminder of how stupid that was, and today is one of them.
As much as anything, the chance remains high that “honest mistakes” could be what cost us the title. It would be ridiculous to pretend that this is not the case.
There are various ways in which a referee can change the trajectory of a match or even a title challenge and not all are as obvious as you might think.
Allowing players to brutalise ours and escape with a token punishment, or denying penalty kicks at a crucial point in the game are only a couple of them, but had we not scored early today we may have seen others brought to bear.
For starters, a ref can break up a team’s rhythm by stopping them, much as a good defence lawyer will call “objection” as much as he can when a prosecutor is trying to develop his case. Whenever your team is on the ball going forward the ref can pull back or stop play for every fifty-fifty challenge. Yellow cards can stop your defenders and midfielders from wanting to make tackles as much as failing to show them can encourage the opposition to have a go.
If officials are of a mind, they can utilise all sorts of means to undermine a game plan and to stop a team building up a head of steam in a match. Do not underestimate these tactics; we’ve seen them used against us time after time and we never seem to learn.
We’ve won that game comfortably today; I expected us to be far more vocal about the nature of that challenge in the aftermath.
Had we struggled or dropped points some in the press would have said it was a smokescreen designed to cover the manager … today he’s got the result and so it was the perfect time to put this matter front and centre.
Dallas allowed a piece of outright thuggery today against one of our most effective players, on a side of the pitch where we’re already struggling for personnel.
Showing a yellow card for that is like calling open season on the rest of our players for the remainder of this campaign; the message is, as long as you aren’t already on a booking, do your worst.
There are many ways that our club could sleepwalk to disaster here; I am astonished that more people aren’t tuned in to how big a threat this one is. A few seasons ago we were being hypercritical of the officials and making it clear we had them under the microscope.
We didn’t get every decision we deserved – we never will either – but they knew we had our eyes on them.
There is no harm in making it clear that we do again.
This title could come down to fine margins.
We are mad if we aren’t doing everything we can to minimise risks before they happen.
It could prevent a lot of futile moaning about them – and their consequences – after the fact.