Chris Wilder went to visit referee Graham Scott after Watford’s 1-1 draw with Wigan to discuss the issue of time-wasting.
The Watford head coach felt his team’s opponents crossed the line with their tactics regarding going down with apparent head injuries.
“I basically went and sympathised with him (Scott) and said it’s incredibly difficult,” he told The Athletic.
“I wanted to get their view on it. I’m not hanging them out to dry but I think they know it’s a big issue as well, in today’s game and overall in football. I think it puts the referees in unbelievable positions.”
Wigan captain Tendayi Darikwa was booked for time-wasting after 67 minutes for taking too long over a free-kick, but Wilder was more concerned about the number of opposition players going down with apparent head injuries.
This automatically requires the referee to stop the game, assess the injury and in most circumstances call for the team physio to come onto the field of play.
“If a lad goes down with a head injury, (the referee) runs the length of the pitch, (play continues) and something happens (to that player) then you know that’s not going to make the back pages, that’s going to make the front pages,” says Wilder.
“It’s difficult because all fingers will be pointed at him and his assistants. There is a line and I think it’s getting crossed.”
Wilder was booked by Scott for leaving his technical area during the game.
In the final few minutes Wigan’s Omar Rekik went down in the Wigan box which required goalkeeper Ben Amos to put the ball out of play for a throw-in. Rekik was fine to continue, and when Watford restarted Mario Gaspar’s throw-in was played straight back out of play by a frustrated Joao Pedro for a Wigan throw-in level with their own penalty area rather than the ball returned to Amos.
“The boy goes down, we don’t have a right to throw the ball back because he’s not injured but my message to my players was throw the ball back,” explained Wilder. “I didn’t say throw the ball to Joao Pedro and he hits it out of play.”
The incident led to a confrontation between Wilder and Wigan manager Shaun Maloney after another extended delay.
“I think in normal circumstances you throw it back to the goalkeeper so I was really disappointed with that,” said Maloney who admitted that he perhaps took out his frustration on the wrong target, “It wasn’t the manager who did that, I was just very unhappy that the player made that decision.”
Wilder said: “Shaun had a bit of a nip at me and I’m going to come back and defend my box and my club. The boy goes down and he’s not injured, we lose momentum and (the game) gets broken up,” said Wilder. “He (Maloney) said something I didn’t agree with and I replied in the way that I should imagine he expected me to reply.”
Watford bemoaned similar incidents in the 1-0 defeat at another side battling relegation, Queens Park Rangers, in Wilder’s first game in charge.
“Everybody does what they need to do to survive and I’ve been in that position, I thought it went to another level in the last two games and we’re once again talking about it,” he said. “There will always be game management and the haves and the have nots but it’s people paying decent money coming to watch a game of football.”
Wilder was sympathetic to Wigan’s plight due to their financial issues, but highlighted the need for a solution to the issue of time-wasting.
“If it’s a clock then I’m sure people can get around that, if its adding on 12 or 13 minutes, if it’s a yellow card straight away, I just think it puts referees in poor positions,” he said.
“From a neutral (spectators) point of view they’ll be looking at it and thinking I can’t believe how stop start it was and that would be my honest opinion on that. I would imagine its happened 60 to 70 per cent of the games over the weekend. Is it the way I would want to play if I was in (Wigan’s) position? I’d say no I wouldn’t.
“Referees are not here to make it easy for us, they are there to manage us, the players and the event because that’s £25-30 a pop for a ticket or more for a season ticket. So they have an obligation to manage this as a game of football that is an event.”
The result leaves Watford 10th and five points off the play-offs. Wilder accepted that his side should have been able to go on and win the game after Wigan equalised after 51 minutes through James McClean. Keinan Davis had given Watford the lead just before the break. He felt his side tired as the second half wore on.
“I’m not going to criticise what’s gone on in the past but our levels did drop from a conditioning point of view,” he said. “That’s something I can’t do anything about at this particular moment. We want to be a high energy team and press out of possession and run forward and overload in possession but there’s not going to be any magic pill for the next eight games that I’m just going to inject a load of energy into these boys.
“We looked a little bit stretched, didn’t get up to people and commit to the press so if the front two pressed we didn’t really follow it up in behind and there was a lot of tired legs and tired minds. So is that a reason why we made poor decisions late on in the game, because we were a little bit tired, which is something that is tough to work on with only six weeks left of the season.”
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