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Steve Cooper says referees need help after Var crisis deepens

Brentford held by 10-man Nottingham Forest after fresh Var controversy

Steve Cooper admitted that the PGMOL is “going through a difficult time” after another weekend dominated by controversy, mistakes and confusion in the Premier League.

Cooper, the Nottingham Forest head coach, believes the referees’ body needs urgent help from managers and clubs following another contest plagued by incidents. Brentford’s Thomas Frank was unhappy with a “clear mistake” from the Var after a second-half foul on forward Yoane Wissa, while Forest escaped retrospective punishment after two alleged handballs in their penalty area.

Cooper was also frustrated with the dismissal of centre-back Moussa Niakhate, which left Forest having to defend for 46 minutes with ten men.

The weekend had already seen Darren England, the Var at Saturday’s Tottenham v Liverpool clash, removed from fourth-official duties at the City Ground while Dan Cook, his assistant Var, was also dropped following an error involving Luis Diaz.

With two more managers clearly concerned over worsening standards, the pressure is growing on Howard Webb, the head of English referees, to confront what feels like a deepening crisis with the implementation of Var.

Cooper said: “We all want refereeing to be at the right level and we all want to help them and they have to help themselves. They’re going through a difficult spell and I think we need to help them. This is the one Premier League game of the day - it needed to be a real clear and concise performance, but they have just raised more questions than answers.

“This league is amazing and every part of it needs to be at that level. My dad [Keith] was a referee, so I do get it. Some have gone for us, so I am not sitting here saying we’re hard done by. The last thing they [the PGMOL] needed today was talking points about decision making.”

Forest recovered from the dismissal of Niakhate to preserve their impressive home record this season, but the draw will not linger long in the memory.

Steve Cooper says referees need help after Var crisis deepens in Brentford and Nottingham Forest draw
Nottingham Forest's Moussa Niakhate (No 19) is shown a red card by Paul Tierney - Getty Images/Darren Staples

Brentford’s run without a league win is now five matches and Frank is going to tire of persistent questions regarding Ivan Toney. With his talismanic striker suspended until January for breaching betting rules, Brentford are having to adapt to a different style of play without a focal point in attack.

They have now scored just two goals in four matches and could not find the decisive touch to make their numerical advantage count. Perhaps more worryingly, they have dropped eight points from winning positions this season.

“I know Var is the talk of the town at the moment. But, to be honest, I’m just so tired talking about it,” said Frank.

“I’d much rather talk about football but I understand why we need to do it. I also feel the pain and frustration when it doesn’t go your way. I prefer to concentrate on what I can control. Since the start of the season, we are just in that spell where we can’t get over the line in terms of winning the games. It’s just a matter of time before we get over the line and get some wins.”

After a lifeless opening 45 minutes, Brentford were vastly improved in the second-half and sensed vulnerability in the hosts.

Niakhate was dismissed for a second booking, a foul on Wissa, to become the 17th dismissal of the season in the top division already. Wissa had come close to scoring the first goal after he dispossessed Turner, but was brought down by the Forest goalkeeper as he prepared to shoot.

Seconds after Niakhate’s red card, Brentford took the lead with a brutally simple goal. Mathias Jensen floated a free kick into the area and an unmarked Christian Norgaard nodded the ball into the corner. Turner was at fault and admitted afterwards that it was “an individual error.”

Forest did appear momentarily flat but were level in the 65th minute when Nicolas Dominguez looped Harry Toffolo’s cross over Brentford goalkeeper Mark Flekken, who also should have done better. Dominguez, an Argentina international, is one of Forest’s 13 summer signings and produced a solid performance along with record buy Ibrahim Sangare.

Thirteen minutes of added time cranked up the tension and Forest needed another summer recruit, Brazilian centre-back Murillo, to clear off the line from Brentford’s teenage substitute Michael Olakigbe.

But, once again, the post-mortem will have centred on officials, two frustrated managers and bamboozled supporters.