"You're not fit to referee!"
The chant that echoed around the John Smiths Stadium on saturday afternoon as referee Tim Robinson well and truly shafted the much improved Terriers out of two points against Charlton Athletic.
Ok, I'm a Town fan, so obviously it's easy to assume that I am being biased whilst writing this but I'd urge anyone to look at these highlights and tell me how that is not a penalty and a red card for Ben Haim Highlights courtesy of SKY Sports, and that was just one of many big decisions that the referee got wrong on a very controversial afternoon at HTFC.
Lillis really has Town working hard again and the performance levels have risen with dramatic effect with fast paced football and biting tackles returning in abundance.
Town could have been a goal up within minutes of the kick-off when Charlton keeper Nick Pope rushed out of his area misjudging the bounce of the ball, Nahki Wells pounced shouldering Pope out of the way in the process and calmly slotted home from 20 yards. However, much to the anger of the home fans, the linesman had flagged and a free-kick was awarded in favour of the keeper.
Harry Bunn continued his impressive form following his midweek debut at Reading and twice forced Pope into making good saves from the left hand side. His direct running and strength caused problems for the Addicks all afternoon and it's looking like we have yet another star in the making.
Charlton had chances themselves. Striker Igor Vetokele was a pain in the proverbial with his fast pace and he soon brought a good save from Alex Smithies after turning Joel Lynch on the edge of the Town box. He later had the ball in the net but the strike was wrongly ruled out for offside by the linesman.
So 1-1 on the goals ruled out column but that bit of good fortune for Town was soon smashed well and truly in the gonads when a minute from the half-time whistle Vetokele raced on to a stylish back heel flick with Murray Wallace and Joel Lynch in close pursuit. Wallace did have hold of the strikers arm who fell around 30 yards from goal. The referee took his time and allowed most of the Charlton team, including centre back Andre Bikey who ran the half the length of the pitch in order to plead for a red card and sure enough out it came as Town were sent into the break down to ten. With Lynch clearly covering it was a decision that left the Town faithful in disbelief and frustration.
Lillis' words at half time saw Town come out with a strong mindset and they grouped and harried Charlton into numerous mistakes and hit them on the break with good effect. Sean Scannell was a constant menace down the right in one of his best performances I've seen from him during his Town career and it was little surprise that he was involved in the opener as he back heeled for the on rushing Tommy Smith to pick-up on the right side of the area. Smith got to the byline and fired low across the face of goal for the unmarked Nahki Wells to tap in his first league goal of the season from 5 yards out.
That goal galvanised the home fans as the atmosphere picked up a notch and they were soon given a further boost when injury prone striker James Vaughan returned to the field in place of Wells on 60 minutes.
Vaughan looked sharp and used his muscle well against Ben Haim and Bikey and had them working hard, much to the dislike of referee Tim Robinson who seemed determined to help the Charlton back-line by awarding free kicks for what looked like fair challenges against Vaughan. Following a long discussion with Vaughan, for a foul he'd apparently committed, came one of the worst decisions I've ever seen in professional football.
Adam Hammill, who had replaced the worn out Sean Scannell, charged down the right wing. His deep cross reached Vaughan at the back post who cooly controlled and cut back inside to create space for the shot. With Vaughan looking likely to score Tel Ben Haim clearly shoved two hands into his chest and barged Vaughan to the ground in a challenge that was probably best described as assault. Ref, Tim Robinson, was looking directly at the challenge but waved away the protests much to the disbelief of the entire stadium. Even some of the Charlton players couldn't hide their looks of relief as play continued. The most blatant penalty certainly I've ever seen that hasn't been awarded.
Of course Charlton had to then add insult to injury and equalise with just three minutes remaining as Vetokele finally got his goal, latching on to Bikey's flick on from the edge of the Town box and firing home.
Extremely harsh on Town who had held strong throughout and limited Charltons chances with ten men. At the risk of sounding like sour grapes it's really hard not to lay the blame at the two big decisions in the game. The red card (which has since been rescinded following appeal) and the penalty claim, but it was a performance that much entertained and was much needed in front of the home crowd. Lillis deserves a lot of credit for putting the pride back into the club.
Smithies - 7
Couldn't do anything about the goal and did well with the two saves when he was called upon.
Smith - 7
A solid performance and did well defensively. Great assist for the goal.
Wallace - 6.5
Was having a decent game until he was harshly sent off.
Lynch - 7
Won his fair share of arial battles and used his strength well.
Dixon - 7.5
Much improved from the left back, coped with his winger well despite a clear pace disadvantage.
Peltier - 7
Looked comfortable in his defensive midfield role, broke up play and kept it simple when in possession. Unfortunate to pick up another injury early in the second half.
Coady - 8.5 (Man of the Match)
This kid looks like a star in the making. Very impressive in midfield breaking play up and picking out the passes too. Equally as impressive when asked to be moved to centre back to cover Peltiers' injury, looked solid and stayed vocal throughout.
Butterfield - 7
A really hardworking performance. Closed down all around the pitch and stayed busy. The odd misplaced pass but always looking to create something.
Scannell - 8
Looked a different man entirely. Diving into tackles and a constant menace down the right. Deserved his standing ovation when subbed.
Bunn - 7.5
Took time to get going but grew into the game well. His direct running and strength on the ball caused all kinds of problems for Charlton and he was unlucky not to add more to his goal tally bringing two good saves out of the keeper.
Wells - 7
Unlucky not to have had a goal early on but stuck at it and worked hard and was the right man in the right place for his opening goal of the season.
Majewski - 7
Wasn't sure he'd be up to the task with ten men but he worked hard and played a couple of great passes through the middle. Did well keeping the shape and was a good outlet to ease the pressure late on.
Vaughan - 7.5
Looked extremely sharp considering he's been out for so long. Used his strength wisely and should have had a clear penalty after causing the Charlton defence no end of problems.
Hammill - 6.5
Wasn't on too long but did brilliantly to set-up Vaughan for the penalty claim and did well defensively down the right.