Martin Atkinson causes a row to erupt after late call to referee Manchester derby

Martin Atkinson

Late change: Atkinson

Manchester City were last night stunned to learn that controversial referee Martin Atkinson will take charge of today’s derby game at Eastlands as a last-minute replacement for Steve Bennett.

Atkinson will forever be remembered by City fans as the referee who played six minutes of injury time in last September’s derby at Old Trafford, allowing Michael Owen to score a last-gasp winner in Manchester United’s 4-3 win.

Atkinson had been drafted in to replace Bennett after the original referee was left stranded in Spain as a result of flight cancellations caused by problems with the volcanic ash that has recently paralyzed air traffic routes in Europe.

City officials were last night left irritated not only by the choice of replacement official but also because when news of the switch reached them late in the afternoon they were not given an explanation.

City have contacted referees’ bosses Keith Hackett and Mike Riley to ask for an explanation.

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