Allardyce blames ref for Blackburn’s Carling Cup defeat

Fuming Allardyce criticises referee

Blackburn manager Sam Allardyce accused referee Martin Atkinson of costing his side a place at Wembley after Aston Villa’s 6-4 Carling Cup semi-final win.

Atkinson did not give a foul in the build-up to Stephen Warnock’s opener for Villa, which drew them level on aggregate in the second leg.

Allardyce said Atkinson was “a major major part of us not getting through”.

“No question about it and unfortunately we have to suffer it. And there is nothing we can do about that,” he said.

Villa hosted Rovers on Wednesday with a 1-0 advantage from the first leg at Ewood Park, when Martin O’Neill’s side had their own complaints about refereeing decisions.

O’Neill delighted with Villa team

But their opponents looked more than comfortable as they took a 2-0 lead with just 26 minutes on the clock in the return fixture at Villa Park.

With Blackburn in control, and arguably favourites for a place in the final, Atkinson failed to spot an apparent push from Villa’s Gabriel Agbonlahor on Ryan Nelsen, allowing former Rovers defender Stephen Warnock to rifle the home side level on aggregate.

“Our problem is that we were in complete control of the game and if anyone is going to score it’s going to be us,” said Allardyce.

“Then the referee allows a blatant foul on Ryan Nelsen to go unpunished.

“You have to make sure you get those decisions right because they don’t even themselves out and we are perhaps out of a cup final because of that decision.”

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O’Neill, meanwhile, praised his side’s resolve as the club seek their first major trophy since winning the League Cup back in 1996.

“I’m absolutely delighted for the players. We conceded a couple of really soft goals, but came roaring back into the game,” he said.

“We thought if we could get one or two it might be enough. As it was we scored six and still weren’t sure!

“It was on a knife-edge when they scored the second goal.”

O’Neill reached the League Cup final three times in four years while in charge at Leicester City, winning the trophy in 1997 and 2000 and finishing as runners-up in 1999.

His Villa side will take on either Manchester City or Manchester United in the 2010 final at Wembley on Sunday 28 February.

On Wednesday , Rovers were two up after a double from Nikola Kalinic, before Warnock’s strike levelled the aggregate score.

James Milner put Villa back ahead in the tie, and he thanked the Villa Park crowd for keeping faith with their side, after they overcame 10-man Rovers.

“I don’t know what they were thinking when we were 2-0 down but they kept shouting,” he said.

Milner praises ‘battling’ Villa

However, O’Neill – who singled out the “sensational” Milner for particular praise – noted an air of tension when his side were behind and pleaded with fans to be patient at future matches.

“I understand their anxiety and frustration at times but you have got to stick with these players because they can play,” he said.

In the first leg, Agbonlahor had seen a penalty appeal turned down by referee Mark Clattenburg, but O’Neill admitted the decision was not as crucial as it had seemed at the time.

“We could have been going into this game with a pretty comfortable lead,” he continued.

“Having said that, if we had been five up before the game we might have been in trouble.”

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