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Byline: Jamie HEWITT reports

SPURS boss Jacques Santini blasted rookie ref Peter Walton after seeing him joking with players in the United dressing room just minutes after giving them a first half penalty.

Santini claims Walton visited the Reds at half time and now wants to know why he was put in charge of the match at the last minute.

Steve Bennett was due to supervise the clash but in midweek fourth official Graham Poll was moved to Fulham's game against Southampton with Bennett dropping down to replace him.

Walton was given the nod and he awarded the 42nd minute penalty that Ruud Van Nistelrooy slotted home to give United the points.

Santini said: 'I was standing with my players when we saw the referee in the dressing room of Manchester United smiling with the players and staff.

'It was changed three or four days before the game and I am not happy with the decision.'

Claims that Walton was in the United dressing room were denied by a club spokesman and Ferguson insists the man in charge had a good game.

He said: 'The fans tried to influence the ref but he did his job well and there were no contentious issues, just some hoo-ha.'

Spurs were lucky not to concede a penalty after only three minutes when Gabriel Heinze went down under a reckless challenge from Mbulelo Mabizela.

Heinze jumped up and played in the cross but had he remained on the deck ref Pete Walton would surely have awarded a spot-kick.

Van Nistelrooy's low drive in 26 minutes deflected off Ledley King forcing a save from England number two Paul Robinson.

Santini was far from happy and replaced Freddie Kanoute with Simon Davies in 29 minutes.

The home side went behind in 42 minutes when Erik Edman tugged back John O'Shea giving United the penalty that Van Nistelrooy netted.

United picked up where they left off at the start of the second half with Alan Smith creating a chance for himself in 47 minutes.

The England striker cleverly chipped the ball over Noureddine Naybet on the edge of the box but he then screwed his shot wide.

Jermaine Defoe created a chance of his own three minutes later by nicking the ball away from Roy Keane but like Smith he was unable to hit the target.

There was another moment of controversy in 53 minutes as Heinze appeared to strike Robbie Keane in the face as the pair challenged for the ball but play was waved on.

United had the ball in the net again in 61 minutes when Christiano Ronaldo crossed low from the left to Van Nistelrooy but the effort was ruled out for offside.

Santini sensed the tide had turned against his team and made another change in 66 minutes as Johnnie Jackson replaced Mabizela.

United screamed for another penalty a minute later but the ref was right to ignore the pleas as Noe Pamarot played the ball.

Spurs tried to attack and both Robbie Keane and Jamie Redknapp sent long-range efforts wide as they went in search of an equaliser.

But United held on with a relieved Fergie saying: 'I haven't seen the penalty. The linesman gave it and John said he was pulled back but I need to see it again.'


Whistle blower: Controversial ref Peter Walton watches Roy Keane slide in on Jamie Redknapp during yesterday's clash
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Sep 26, 2004
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