Sian flies flag in style

Assistant referee Sian Massey
Assistant referee Sian Massey
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SIAN Massey got the thumbs up from both managers as she made a successful return to Premier League action at Bloomfield Road.

Massey ran the line in a top-flight match for the first time since finding herself at the centre of the Richard Keys-Andy Gray controversy, which resulted in the pair losing their jobs at Sky because of their off-air comments.

The official was subsequently pulled out of three scheduled matches to avoid the spotlight but returned to the Premier League at Bloomfield Road.

“She made the right decisions,” said Aston Villa manager Gerard Houllier. “I was confident in her. She is good at what she is doing.”

Holloway was also fulsome in his support. “She did a fine job. That whole controversy which she unwittingly found herself at the centre of was nonsense,” he said.

“All that matters is if someone is good at their job and from what I’ve seen she’s spot on.”

However, Holloway was angered by the Villa supporters who taunted Massey with chants about Gray, a former Villa player.

Holloway said: “I didn’t like some of the shouts. ‘There’s only one Andy Gray’ – is that funny? That’s rude.

“You have to forget about all of that and get on with things, haven’t we? I think we should let things lie in the past.”

Villa boss Houllier was pleased with his team’s point. He said: “You have to show different qualities. We were resilient and disciplined. I am very proud of my players.

“It is not easy when you are away at Blackpool and down to ten men. It was a hard-fought point.

“We came here to win and could have won it after 25 minutes but I have to give my players credit.”

Houllier explained that he replaced England striker Darren Bent with Emile Heskey in the second half simply because his £24m signing was tired.

“He had a full game for the national team. After the travelling he wasn’t as lively as usual,” said the Villa boss.

Villa will be without defender Carlos Cuellar for three weeks after he suffered a hamstring injury in the first half.