Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson has leapt to the defence of Wilfried Zaha after he was once again booked for diving in the 0-0 draw with Watford on Saturday.
The Ivorian went to ground in the penalty area under a rash challenge from Adrian Mariappa during the second half at Vicarage Road, but referee Chris Kavanagh opted to caution Zaha for simulation rather than point to the spot.
It means that the 25-year-old has been shown four yellow cards for diving since the start of the 2015-16 season – more than any other player.
Hodgson believes the reputation he has gained is unfair, though, telling the club’s official website: “It sometimes comes from other managers trying to gain an advantage by putting in the referee’s mind that he’s cheat. We know he isn’t – in fact, quite the opposite.
“I think there are times where he tries so hard to stay on his feet that he might be better off taking the foul.
“There’s nothing we can do about that reputation – it’s come from the outside.
“I know he’s not a cheat by any stretch of the imagination. I also know that diving doesn’t feature in his repertoire and only hope that other people will listen to my opinion and not take the opinion of people who have a vested interest in saying he does dive.”
A point means Palace are now six above 18th-placed Southampton in the Premier League, but Mark Hughes’ side do have a game in hand.
Hodgson added: “We thought it might go down to the last game and it might still. We’re as many as six points clear so we’ve got to be satisfied with that. It’s up to us to this opportunity.”
Watford, meanwhile, have moved onto 38 points – nine clear of Southampton – but Javi Gracia was quick to quash talk that they already have enough on the board to survive.
He said: “I don’t care in this moment if it’s enough or not. The most important thing is to prepare for the next game and try to get three points.”