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Linfield boss David Healy hits out at referee standards

By Graham Luney

David Healy has waded into the debate about the standard of refereeing in the Danske Bank Premiership, arguing that too many decisions leave him "baffled".

The Linfield boss expressed his frustration at match officials after his side's defeat to Ballymena United in the County Antrim Shield final but the Northern Ireland legend says he's not guilty of "sour grapes" as he feels poor refereeing is hurting all teams.

Newtownabbey man Ian McNabb took charge of Tuesday night's Shield decider, which the Sky Blues edged 3-2.

Both Healy and United boss Glenn Ferguson were unimpressed with controversial decisions on the night but it was Northern Ireland's record goalscorer who went on the attack after the battle.

When asked if he thought Kirk Millar's shot in injury-time was going to hit the back of the net instead of the crossbar, the Blues supremo replied: "I think if Kirk Millar's shot had hit the back of the net the way the referee was refereeing the game he might have disallowed it!"

The former Rangers and Leeds United frontman added: "It's something that I am getting accustomed to here. Some of the decisions that referees and linesmen make in this country are baffling.

"That's not sour grapes on my part. I'm just baffled standing there on the touchline. Apparently all the referees and linesmen are Bluemen in this league. If they are they certainly aren't making me aware of it by their actions on the pitch.

"Spike and other managers throughout the league will say the same. I read what you guys write and managers and fans leave after every game scratching their heads about some of the decisions so something needs to be done about it.

"We are supposed to have a professional referees' union, let's make the refs better.

"It's not just managers coming into Northern Ireland who are making this point. I'm talking to other players and managers who have known and worked in this league for a long time.

"They have informed me to expect a situation like this. It's definitely not sour grapes on my part as we have benefited from baffling decisions and won games because of it as well."

Healy vented his frustration at the fourth official Andrew Davey during the Shield decider, feeling that persistent fouling by one player was not being punished.

"You speak to the fourth official about it and when a player has made four fouls in my eyes then he should be getting a yellow card," he added.

"If my player made four fouls and wasn't booked I'd be very shocked. I'd even ask the fourth official to book him so he knew he was in the wrong! When I'm told it's only four fouls are we then playing like it's the old days and it's five fouls a yellow, five corners a goal?

"If an experienced referee and official knows it's four fouls give him a yellow card.

"I had a young boy (Paul Smyth) who missed a Cup final because he made two tackles. Whether it's the County Antrim Shield final, the Irish Cup final, the Champions League final or the World Cup final it doesn't matter, the officials have got to get the big decisions right.

"We scored a goal (Guy Bates) in the final that probably shouldn't have been a free-kick and I could sense Spike's frustration. Had we went on to win the game he would have really been complaining about that."

Ferguson was fuming at the award of the free-kick which led to Bates' goal. He said: "The free-kick awarded to Linfield was never a free-kick.

"It cost us a goal and two yellow cards. Those decisions can cost you trophies."

Crusaders striker Stephen O'Flynn has been placed on the transfer list.

Crues boss Stephen Baxter has reluctantly agreed to a request from O'Flynn to move from Seaview.

The former Derry City striker left Institute for the Crues in January last year but has struggled to secure regular first-team football.

Baxter said: "Stephen O'Flynn is a superb talent and a first class professional, and it is with a heavy heart that I have agreed to place him on the transfer list due to his limited opportunities in the first team.

"I have no doubt that the player will continue to give 100 per cent to our cause and we will see what develops."

Cliftonville and Derry City have both tabled bids for Portadown striker Darren Murray.

Solitude is understood to be Murray's preferred destination but the Ports want the best financial deal they can get for a player who has submitted his second transfer request.

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