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Top Nine: Painful Refereeing Clangers

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With Martin Atkinson's howler at the weekend costing Sunderland an opportunity to come away from the game against Arsenal with something to show for their efforts, we look back at some other costly mistakes from the officials over the years

Laurence Griffiths

Saturday's defeat at the hands of Arsenal will still be maddening many a Sunderland fan as the days pass, but for once not completely due to Di Canio's men failings but rather a controversial moment of lunacy from the man in the middle, Martin Atkinson.

This got us thinking, or rather, ranting, behind the scenes here at Roker Report at some of the other ridiculous refereeing decisions over the years which have cost Sunderland and here we are with a handy little top ten... or nine, its close enough.

9. Phil Dowd: Crystal Palace vs Sunderland - 03/04

Now Luke Bowley must have a better memory than most as he suggested this entry into our list from the 03/04 Play Offs as Sunderland were knocked out by Crystal Palace with Mart Poom left for dead after a savage beating from Neil Shipperley as Darren Powell steered home an equaliser.

As Mick McCarthy himself said afterwards;

I think it's not the greatest decision I have ever seen. Poom was fouled - and I think that will be backed up on TV and everything else. It leaves a bitter taste.

8. Kevin Friend: Sunderland vs Liverpool - 10/11

Another case of a penalty having been awarded despite any contact been made outside of the penalty area here, as Kevin Friend elected to point to the penalty spot following a John Mensah challenge on Liverpool's Jay Spearing.

Kevin Friend cannot shoulder all of the blame for this one however, as the decision was made following a brief consultation with his official, yet the buck does of course stop with the man with the whistle.

7. Howard Webb: Newcastle vs Sunderland - 08/09

In the fast and furious cauldron that is a Tyne/Wear Derby, it is easy to see how an official cn be swayed by the reaction of the crowd in the stands, baying for blood in support of their side. Howard Webb fell victim of this back in 2008, awarding Newcastle a penalty for a challenge on Steven Taylor by Steed Malbranque. What I remember most about this decision was the knowing wink that Taylor gave his team mates as they rushed to congratulate him on a job well done. Webb fell for his "trickery" hook, line and sinker, a decision which helped Newcastle to a point from the proceedings.

6. Graham Poll: Wimbledon vs Sunderland - 99/00

Few Sunderland fans will forget the assault on Nicky Summerbee by Ben Thatcher at Selhurst Park at the turn of the Century. A truly horrific elbow, delivered with genuine intent by the Dons' full back, which went completely unpunished by Poll. To make matters worse the flashpoint occurred during the build-up to Carl Cort's goal which was enough to earn all three points for Egil Olsen's men.

5. Andre Marriner: Manchester City vs Sunderland - 09/10

Sunderland were left dumbfounded when Michael Turner received his marching orders in a narrow defeat to Manchester City in 2009. The central defender was adjudged to have caught Gareth Barry with an elbow whilst challenging for a ball in the air, and Marriner had no hesitation in reaching for his back pocket.

Steve Bruce claimed the game had gone soft and confidently lodged an appeal.

Surprise, surprise the decision was upheld and to add further insult to injury an additional game was added to the suspension as it was adjudged to be have been a frivolous appeal by the FA. Magic.

4. Howard Webb: Sunderland vs Everton - 11/12

Boxing Day 2011, with the season of goodwill in full swing, Howard Webb decided to offer his best Scrooge impersonation and award the visitors a spot kick following a foul on Leon Osman. Except that wasn't the case. Not even close.

With the Everton midfielder galloping into the area, the pesky turf managed to get in the way of young Leon's attempted shot and sent him tumbling to the floor under no challenge from a man in red and white. Despite this, Webb elected to point to the spot, a penalty from which Leighton Baines did what Leighton Baines does, and the goal was enough to earn Everton a share of the spoils. Merry blooming Christmas.

3. Graham Barber: Sunderland vs Liverpool - 00/01

In what was already proving to be an extremely tempestuous game, the touch paper was lit in the 78th minute when Barber elected to award Liverpool a penalty following a foul on Gary McAllister roughly twenty-seven yards outside of the area. Exaggeration or not, the Scot managed to hop, skip and jump his way four or five yards into the area, and his dramatic tumble was enough to hoodwink Barber into awarding the Merseysiders a spot kick, which Jari Litmanen smashed home to earn his side a point.

2. Rob Harris: Tranmere vs Sunderland - 99/00

Sticking around in the year 2000, the officiating debacle at Prenton Park in the FA Cup is enough to earn a spot in our roundup. A cup upset for Tranmere was marred by an incredible scenario following the dismissal of Clint Hill, who then proceeded to be substituted as he marched off the field. Despite the protests of Peter Reid and his staff on the sidelines, play was allowed to continue for a number of minutes as Tranmere continued with a full complement of players. Truly bizarre.

1. Stuart Attwell - Liverpool vs Sunderland - 10/11

And our "winner" goes to a truly ridiculous decision which could only happen to Sunderland. With a free kickawarded in Sunderland's half, Michael Turner whilst marching up the field for the resulting set piece, back heeled the ball into the parh of Simon Mignolet for the free kick to be taken. Cue opportunist Fernando Torres who raced onto the loose ball before laying it square for Dirk Kuyt to slot home with not a single outfield Sunderland player in sight.

Whilst everybody knew what the Sunderland centre half was doing, Attwell following a consultation with his assistant decided to let the goal stand. Absolutely bonkers.