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Ref shrugs shoulders over ‘let off’ horror tackle

SILENT: Halsey smiles at the Wharf (Photo: Bart Chan)

SEALED LIPS and a shrug of the shoulders were all referee Mark Halsey could offer The Voice when asked about the knee-high, cruncher challenge he missed last weekend.

The tackle by Wigan’s Callum McManaman left Newcastle’s Massadio Haidara writhing on the deck at the DW Stadium on March 17 in a Premier League match the home-side won 2-1 right at the death.

The Toon player, signed in the last January transfer window, went off in the first half in agony, sustaining cruciate ligament damage – he was fortunate not to suffer a broken leg.

Yesterday (March 20), the match official was overseeing a corporate frolic-type event for suits struggling to kick a ball straight outside Canary Wharf tube station, east London, when The Voice approached the man in black.

“What about that tackle on Haidara at Wigan?” and “was the FA right to let him off?” were the questions put forward to Halsey, after he had watched a portly gentleman slice a shot wide. The ref, towing the FA line impeccably, kept his mouth firmly shut, not even using the standard line: “No comment.”

In his report of the fraught match, Halsey said he had not witnessed the tackle, a statement which triggered the FA to take retrospective action. After spending two days examining the footage, the FA’s action was a decision that McManaman would receive no reprimand.

OUCH: Callum McManaman follows through on Massadio Haidara

Football’s governing body released a statement explaining their verdict.

“At least one of the officials saw the coming together, though not the full extent of the challenge. In these circumstances, retrospective action cannot be taken”, it read.

“The principal objective behind the ‘not seen’ policy is to address off-the-ball incidents where match officials are unlikely to be in a position to witness misconduct.”

The Magpies’ chairman Derek Llambias said the decision showed FA rules are “not fit for purpose”.

Wigan chairman Dave Whelan further angered the Newcastle club by claiming the 21-year-old striker had won the ball “clean as a whistle”.

Further fallout from the tackle has seen Toon assistant boss John Carver and Latics coach Graham Barrow charged with misconduct by the FA. Carver confronted McManaman as the players entered the tunnel for half time. A fracas ensued.

In contrast to dishing out no punishment on the Wigan striker, the FA took retrospective action on Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha for raising his middle finger at Leeds fans who had been abusing him at Selhurst Park on March 9.

The 20-year-old midfielder, who is Manchester United bound this summer, must pay £3,000 for the gesture and is suspended for the Eagles’ next match against Birmingham City on March 29.

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