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Jay Rodriguez Dive Hides Grim Reality of Aston Villa's Misery

Rickie Lambert celebrates scoring the controversial penalty that sent Aston Villa into the relegation zone
Rickie Lambert celebrates scoring the controversial penalty that sent Aston Villa into the relegation zoneClive Mason/Getty Images
Clive EdwardsContributor IIIJanuary 12, 2017

Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert was furious with referee Mark Halsey after the defeat at home to Southampton.

Mark Halsey wrongly adjudged that Villa defender Enda Stevens had fouled Southampton striker Jay Rodriguez in the penalty area. Halsey pointed to the spot and gave Southampton's Rickie Lambert the opportunity to lift his side above Villa in the league. 

The referee had made a mistake that he would be embarrassed about, Lambert assured journalists in the post-match press conference. He reacted with disbelief when he heard that the Southampton manager, Nigel Adkins, had told the press that Rodriguez was justified in going to ground because he was trying to avoid contact with the Villa defender.

Paul Lambert laboured the point throughout the press conference, having previously made the most of the same issue in separate post-match television and radio interviews.

Managers divert attention form their own shortcomings,and those of their team by attacking a common enemy - the referee. It is irresponsible of them to do so.

Lambert is under fire for Aston Villa's poor recent performances.

His side have been inept for much of the season and find themselves in the bottom three. They have failed to score in seven of their last ten league games. They have won just three of their last 24 home games in the league. They have won five of their last 38 league games. Their haul of 19 points is their worst ever after 22 league games. They are the league's joint lowest scorers. 

Lambert needs to take a close look at those statistics and consider carefully whether the referee, or he himself, should be shouldering the blame for Villa's woes. 

In the build up to the incident that led Mark Halsey to award the controversial penalty, Villa defenders made a series of schoolboy errors. It was like watching the keystone cops. In truth, the man on the field who made the fewest mistakes was the referee. But the Villa boss saw fit to belittle him after the game to save his own job.

How many managers have we seen revert to this ungracious tactic to shield themselves?

It is a cheap strategy that damages the status of the referee, and as a result, damages the game.

By all means, point to the referee's error, but to focus on that one decision, as though that alone explains Aston Villa's position, is like a chef blaming his poor cooking on the state of the tablecloth.

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