Michael O’Neill was flabbergasted at referee David Webb’s last minute decisions that gifted Swansea a penalty winner at Stoke.
O’Neill’s side seemed set for a 1-1- draw before the late, late drama, when Jack Clarke was adjudged to have fouled Kyle Naughton, who ran in front of the defender and hit the deck without there appearing to be any contact.
“Yes, it’s a big call,” said O’Neill. “An incorrect call in my opinion, having seen the incident back.
“The referee acknowledged there was a foul on James Chester leading up to it. Andre Ayew runs into James Chester intentionally and throws himself to the ground to try to win a free-kick. The ref decides not to give that and then within seconds gives a penalty for what he alleges was a trip on Naughton.
“Having watched it back there’s no way I can determine that slowing it down. I think the contact on the Swansea player is from his own leg.
“The referee’s assistant on the near side didn’t give it, the referee took sole responsibility to give that decision.”
Stoke have been victim to a few refereeing howlers this season and although O’Neill has tried to bite his tongue, there is no hiding his frustration.
“Yeah, it is frustrating,” he said. “I think unfortunately we’re in an environment when there are no crowds in the stadium and I feel that teams are claiming for everything and putting officials under undue pressure. You need the officials to be strong in that situation.
“I just couldn’t see that if there 20,000 people here tonight. I couldn’t see the referee pointing to the spot in that situation. I thought it was a really poor decision.”
Nick Powell had given Stoke a sixth minute lead and Connor Roberts had levelled. Steven Fletcher and Tommy Smith both hit the woodwork and James Chester missed a glorious chance before Angus Gunn made a late save to deny Roberts.
O’Neill had a chance to have a word with Webb about the game-changing late call.
He said: “Yes, I did. I let him know what my thoughts were – and he didn’t give me a satisfactory explanation. He said he thought it was a penalty.
“I’m disappointed on the whole not to take something from the game. We’ve hit the post, we hit the bar, we had to defend at times which we did well and the least we deserved was a draw.”