There I was late yesterday afternoon having a quick lie down, reduced to a torpid stupor by the utterly appalling and unwatchable Sunderland versus Newcastle non-event, when through eyes half-closed and gummed with sleep I happened to glance at a preview of today’s clash against Nottingham Forest. And there it was, staring me in the face, the name of one of the Assistant Referees – Mathew Buonassisi. In an instant I was restored to a state of complete wakefulness and I discovered to my amazement that I was in a cold sweat.
Mathew Buonassisi – how can the mere sight and sound of that name reduce me to such a condition? Well the answer to that question is pretty obvious when you look back at his chequered history when officiating Brentford matches. I will refrain from describing his appearance but he bears an uncanny resemblance to a well known Hollywood actor, and no, I am afraid it certainly isn’t George Clooney! Anyway, looks are totally superficial, it is how you conduct yourself and do your job that really matters. My first sight of him was on Sky Sports in October 2011 when they covered our Johnstone’s Paint Trophy tie at Charlton. We won comfortably by three goals to nil and Toumani Diagouraga scored our third goal, but then the assistant referee got involved, trying his best to get the referee to disallow it even though the ball clearly rebounded to Toumani off a home defender. Fortunately the referee had seen what had happened and correctly awarded the goal. Guess who that assistant referee was? The first time I saw him in the flesh was at the midweek match against Shrewsbury Town in October 2012. A match of stultifying boredom, ineptly controlled by referee Tim Robinson and enlivened only by two highly controversial incidents described below by Teamtalk.com:
Uwe Rosler’s side survived a late penalty scare. Defender Tony Craig was adjudged to have handled in the box and the referee pointed to the spot, only to reverse the decision after consulting his assistant. Seconds later Brentford’s Paul Hayes had the ball in the net after a Forshaw cross, but was denied by the offside flag.
For what it is worth Marvin Morgan blasted a shot against Tony Craig from point blank range and the referee, far from the action, nonsensically decided to award a penalty kick but was persuaded to consult an assistant referee (not MB!) before sanity prevailed and his original decision was changed to a corner kick. What I am referring to came at the other end late on in a match which saw a stuttering Brentford team barely threaten. With time running out, Adam Forshaw jinked inside from his position on the left wing (don’t ask me why he was playing there, ask Uwe) and from the edge of the area shot towards the goal through a crowd of players, and there was substitute Paul Hayes to cleverly divert the ball from close range into the opposite corner of the net for what we thought was a late and totally undeserved winner. We rose in celebration but our delight was quickly stifled by a late appearing flag from the assistant – Mathew Buonassisi, even though it was clear that Hayes had judged his run perfectly, but the decision stood and we were denied. Buonassisi had already irked us all night with a hapless performance when literally, and I do mean “literally” every time we got the ball into the Shrewsbury half after the break, according to him it was either a foul by Donaldson or offside, and this was the crowning glory.
I quickly marked him down in my mental notebook as one to watch, for all the wrong reasons, and thankfully we did not see him again until the FA Cup Third Round tie at Southend. We drew a tough match after leading at one stage by two clear goals and it was Barry Corr’s equalising goal that stuck in the craw, as the Brentford website recalls:
Kevan Hurst delivered a free kick from the right and Brentford stepped out en masse, leaving the Southend attackers offside, however, assistant referee Mathew Buonassisi kept his flag down and Corr headed home from 12 yards. Brentford appealed, justifiably claiming their move up had left the attackers offside, but the goal was given.
We can only assume that Buonassisi was sleeping on the job as the Brentford defence, expertly marshalled by Sam Saunders, appeared to time their advance perfectly, leaving Corr stranded and apparently yards offside, but the man who mattered disagreed and the goal was given. According to Uwe Rosler he apologised after the game but in the manager’s opinion this was not good enough. I share this viewpoint. What annoyed me more is that before the match, when the referee and his two assistants were warming up it was Buonassisi who engaged in some lively banter with the Brentford fans behind the goal, even kicking the ball into the goal and clapping and waving in response to some of their ribald chants. He was drawing attention to himself and I feared the worst, as here it seemed was an official who craved the spotlight, and my concerns were eventually justified when he made his fatal error in the second half.
The last time he appeared at Griffin Park was in late October last year when we played Sheffield Wednesday and my stomach lurched when I saw that familiar figure lurking on the Braemar Road touchline. This time he struck early:
The Bees thought they had taken the lead in the 10th minute but Andre Gray’s side-footed finish from Jota’s cross was ruled out for offside. Mark Warburton commented: “We believe Andre was onside when he scored and the video backs that up, but there is little we can do about it after the event.”
Jota had turned the Wednesday defence inside out and sold them an outrageous dummy that had the entire crowd on their feet before crossing low for Gray to surely run past the last defender to score, but Mathew Buonassisi knew better, the flag was raised triumphantly and we were denied yet again.
Perhaps I am bring unreasonable, perhaps he is simply doing his job to the best of his ability and I am certainly not so paranoid as to even suggest that he has something against Brentford, but he has proved to be totally inept and it is fair to say that he has a lot of previous with us and that we have never benefitted from one of his decisions. I will do my best to ignore him this afternoon and maybe, just maybe, the game will pass without incident, but somehow I doubt it!