The consequences may have been less dire, but for the second weekend running Newcastle United were hindered by a substandard refereeing performance.
While captain Fabricio Coloccini briefly picked up the baton for the tragic trip to Sunderland, Aleksandar Mitrovic was again the victim against Stoke City on Saturday.
Since arriving from Anderlecht in the summer with a patchy disciplinary record, the Serb has been targeted by opponents and officials alike. Philipp Wollscheid, Ryan Shawcross and Roger East seemed only too happy to continue this trend at St James’ Park.
For 90 minutes, Mitrovic battled against the three men with no tangible reward. He clipped the post but spent the majority of the match becoming increasingly frustrated by his treatment.
Time and time again, the £12.5 million man was ignored in his appeals for decisions. When he eventually responded theatrically to a Wollscheid shove in an attempt to gain the upper hand, the 21-year-old was booked. This theme has run throughout the season, though.
When champions Chelsea came to NE1, Kurt Zouma’s handling of Mitrovic was at times illegal in any sport. In previous home appearances, with Southampton and Arsenal in opposition, the controversial forward collected yellow and red cards, respectively.
Mitrovic has suffered for his reputation, punished time and time again, but the overall standard of officiating in the Premier League seems to have been particularly poor this term.
While it remains that English referees compare favourably to those from other countries and confederations – hello CONCACAF – this shouldn’t excuse our middle men from criticism.
At the Stadium of Light, Robert Madley got a decision horribly wrong and cost Newcastle the game. It was an error recognised by the FA, and yet he was granted a gig at league leaders Manchester City just six days later.
Mistakes happen, but there must be consequences. East’s crimes were minimal in comparison, but that shouldn’t make another disappointing showing acceptable.
Both Madley and East have only been in the elite pool since 2013, but neither come close to top dogs such as Michael Oliver and Mark Clattenburg – two whose allegiances make them ineligible for duty on Tyneside.
For now at least, United must continue to struggle against this tide of second-rate umpires.