Craig Salmon’s PNE press view

Ander Herrera put United back on level terms at Deepdale
Ander Herrera put United back on level terms at Deepdale
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I think I will be hard pressed to find any record of my junior football career, participating in the Hyndburn and District Boys’ League.

It is very doubtful that a book containing the list of results of the Under-14s league season, circa 1990, is gathering dust in some forgotten filing cabinet somewhere.

But in the very outside chance that such a historical document does exist, I must declare one very glaring omission.

I once scored one of the greatest ‘goals’ ever seen on a football pitch...or so my proud dad reckons.

In a East Lancashire derby clash between my team Borrowdale United and Boys’ Club, I struck what I thought was the winning goal with just minutes remaining.

As the Boys’ Club keeper prepared to unleash a goalkick from the edge of his area, I waited in my normal central midfield position on the halfway line.

He scuffed his kick but the ball travelled all the way along the ground to me where I instinctively connected with it.

The ball ballooned straight up in the air and headed towards the opposition’s goal.

Unalarmed at first, it soon began to dawn on the keeper that the ball was heading in his direction.

Time seemed to stand still as the Boys’ Club No.1 hurriedly retreated to his goal-line, while looking anxiously over his shoulder searching for the round object hurtling towards him from the sky.

As he dashed back with his arms outstretched in a vain attempt to catch the ball – he resembled a drunk juggler on stilts. The ball arced over his head, bounced once, before nestling in the top corner.

As you can imagine, I embarked on a monumental goal celebration, but as I looked behind myself expecting all 10 of my team-mates rushing to offer their congratulations, I was surprised to find that I was being chased by my opponents.

As I slowed down to see what was happening, I noticed one of the Boys’ Club players pointing to his club linesman, who had his flag in the air.

“Ha ha...no goal...offside,” were the words I heard coming from the Boys’ Club player’s mouth.

As it transpired, my team-mate – the diminutive and ginger haired Mark Hodgetts – had been idle tracking back and as I struck my shot from the halfway line, he had been standing in an offside position.

The assistant referee immediately flagged and the man in the middle upheld it.

A ridiculous decision you might say?

I tend to agree, not that I’m bitter or anything.

But back then, more than 20 years ago, offside was...well... offside.

There were no grey areas. Guidelines like ‘Was he active?’ or ‘interfering with play’ were generally unheard of.

So my ‘goal’ never made it in the local newspaper nor the record books.

Thankfully, the footballing authorities have altered the offside laws in the intervening years so that injustices like my disallowed goal never happen again.

No more are great goals lost to the game forever.

But in doing the right thing, the powers-that-be have muddied the waters somewhat in relation to the offside law.

Deciding whether a player standing in an offside position is ‘inactive’ or ‘active’ or ‘is interfering with play’ under the new interpretations is hugely difficult to judge.

It all boils down to opinion and in referee Phil Dowd’s opinion Wayne Rooney was not interfering with play when Ander Herrera struck Manchester United’s equaliser in the FA Cup against Preston at Deepdale.

In my opinion, the referee and his linesman got it wrong on Monday night and the goal should have been disallowed.

Rooney was quite clearly stood three yards offside and was just a matter of feet away from PNE goalkeeper Thorsten Stuckmann as the big German prepared to deal with Herrera’s strike

After the Spaniard’s shot, Stuckmann would have been aware of Rooney’s presence in his eyeline. In that split second, Stuckmann would have been preparing for Rooney to get involved in the play, unaware that he was in an offside position.

By the time the England skipper had manoeuvred his body out of the way of the ball, Stuckmann had no time to react and the ball ended up in the corner of the net.

The legendary manager Brian Clough once said: “If a footballer is not interfering with play, he shouldn’t be on the pitch.”

Perhaps the present offside law needs further refinement.