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John Robertson <-auth Glenn Gibbons auth-> Hugh Dallas
Mikoliunas Saulius [I Novo 49] ;[F Ricksen pen 94] Dado Prso
16 of 048 Mark Burchill 87 L SPL H

SFA must pick up pieces


THE Ides of March may not be quite as conclusively fateful a day for Saulius Mikoliunas as it was for Julius Caesar, but the young Lithuanian winger will surely approach it with a certain trepidation.

It is on the 15th of the month that the SFA’s disciplinary committee is next scheduled to convene, at which time they will examine the extraordinary circumstances of the Hearts player’s double ordering-off against Rangers at Tynecastle on Wednesday night.

Like the assassinated Roman emperor, Mikoliunas will have been forewarned by prophecies of doom from many quarters. In these circumstances - the Lithuanian having barged linesman Andy Davis after the latter had advised referee Hugh Dallas to award Rangers a stoppage-time, match-winning penalty kick - there is a tendency among some media representatives to react hysterically.

This usually takes the form of predictions of severe punishment for the alleged offender, often stopping just short of a date with the iron maiden. When the time comes, however, those who sit in judgment invariably exercise much more consideration of all the facts, including the events which led to the offence.

What seems certain is that Mikoliunas will be due an automatic three-match suspension. That is, one for each of the red cards - the second of which was issued by Dallas as a consequence of the player swearing at him as he left the field - and a third because he will have exceeded the disciplinary points limit allowed before a ban is imposed. The business with the linesman will incur 12 points for violent conduct, swearing at the referee a further eight.

In the matter of speculating on the punitive measures likely to be taken by the committee, precedent is not a firm guide, because of the infrequency of the kind of action Mikoliunas took the other night. Drew Herbertson, head of the disciplinary department at the SFA, recalled yesterday the case of Bobby Thomson more than 20 years ago.

Thomson, then with Hibs, laid hands on a linesman to whose decision he took exception and his sentence was so heavy that it was measured in time, rather than matches. "If memory serves," said Herbertson, "the player was suspended from January until the end of the season." Herbertson emphasised, however, that, unlike Mikoliunas - for whom this is a first offence - Thomson had a lengthy record of indiscipline.

"The problem with precedent in these matters," Herbertson added, "is that this kind of offence is not that prevalent in the upper reaches of the game. We do get one or two over the years from the lower level.

"There was one about ten years ago involving a young player, I think in a Clyde reserve match, who shoved a referee. Because of his youthfulness and his exuberance, the committee gave him the benefit of the doubt and he was given a much lighter sentence than, for example, an experienced player like Bobby Thomson with a history of appearances."

It may be no help to the committee on this occasion that their counterparts in England have just imposed a ten-match ban on David Prutton of Southampton for pushing referee Alan Wylie during the match against Arsenal last weekend. That could lead to public expectations of harsh punishment for Mikoliunas, but the Scottish administrators have rather prided themselves, over the years, on their independence of thought and action.

There are, in any case, differences between the two incidents which give the Lithuanian hope of some understanding and, perhaps, clemency on the part of his judges. The first is that, unlike Prutton and others who have faced similar charges, he did not lay hands on Davis.

Some may argue that confronting the assistant referee chest-to-chest is no different in intent from raising his hands, but it does indicate a certain restraint, an element of self-control which may, in the eyes of the committee, lessen the severity of the offence.

There is also, of course, his age - he is 20 - his strangeness in a foreign country to which he has only recently immigrated and his clean record. In examining the actions of the players, the committee, too, would be well advised to scrutinise the competence of the linesman, Davis.

It should be remembered that the referee gave a goal kick over the incident in which the Hearts striker, Lee Miller, is alleged to have pulled Sotirios Kyrgiakos, the Rangers defender, with both hands. Dallas clearly saw nothing untoward.

Realising the potentially controversial consequences of awarding Rangers a penalty kick in the last minute of injury time to yield a result that could have a decisive effect on the outcome of the championship itself, Dallas would have asked Davis if he was absolutely sure of what he saw.

Television replays of Miller’s challenge seem to make it impossible for anyone to be convinced that it was a penalty kick. The Rangers manager, Alex McLeish himself, admitted he did not see what Davis appears to have seen, and that the penalty was "of the soft variety."

It would not be the first time a match official has been deemed to have made such a serious blunder that disciplinary action - usually in the form of downgrading - has been considered appropriate. The ultimate decision, of course, rested with Dallas, but, if persuaded by an assistant, he has little choice but to support his colleague. On reviewing the video, Dallas himself may regret placing so much faith in his linesman.

Taken from the Scotsman

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