Notts County away should have been such a good away trip, they’ve got a great set-up there with good players and welcoming stewards. We were travelling in our numbers too, eager to match them on the pitch in a clash between two really good League Two teams. I should be sat writing a celebratory blog or one lamenting our own poor finishing over County’s clinical strikers. I’m not though, in truth you’re not even going to read about the day. Maybe later, but now I have to get something off my chest.
I’m angry, and it isn’t just a little bit angry either, it is a full-on raging anger that could, had I encountered Seb Stockbridge, caused me a real problem. I didn’t, I won’t and instead I came home seething with fury. I sat down briefly to write last night, but I felt perhaps the excitement of the day was too fresh to write anything of value. I’ve slept on it now, and unsurprisingly my anger hasn’t abated one bit.
Yesterday, for 30 minutes, we were involved in a game of football befitting the two teams on show. I’m taking nothing away from Notts County, they were a really good side playing a sweeping, passing game that was easy on the eye. In Jorge Grant they have an insanely talented midfielder destined for the Forest first team, and up front Jon Stead showed an awareness that you’d expect from a top-flight forward. For the first thirty minutes though Lincoln City were on top, Harry Anderson was causing all sorts of problems down the flank, and Matt Green had put a decent effort wide when it looked easier to score.
I was a happy fan, I felt perhaps we’d end up with a draw, but in front of 11,000 fans (4100 of our own) anything could have happened. It was panning out as one of the days we live for, the football days that we missed for six long years. Then some officiating of Sunday League standard stole the whole day away from us in one swoop. That isn’t even fair to Sunday League referees to be honest.
In real-time, my first instinct was Billy Knott had been fouled. He appeared to have flicked the ball on, turned to go and been clattered from the side. I had a decent view, and when the red card came out, I cheered. I genuinely thought their lad had been sent off, until someone told me it was Billy. It wasn’t long before the video came up on the internet and I’ve now viewed it 100 times. It wasn’t a red card, in my opinion it wasn’t even a foul, and the referee ruined a great game right there.
I spent the next hour arguing with my Dad that nothing after that point mattered. I couldn’t see that we were poor after the red card, because as far as I’m concerned if you go down to ten men against Notts County you’ll always look poor. Their game uses the whole pitch, it’s all about space and freedom and nothing affords you space and freedom like an extra man. Had we not gone down to ten men we could have matched that able County side and produced a game of football befitting of 11,000 fans in such a fine stadium. Instead we witnessed a proper Shaksperian comedy where the joker in green conducted farcical scenes of a one-sided battle, robbing the assembled masses of a good game of football. I’m sure County won’t mind being 4-1 winners, but well over 4,000 fans we rewarded for turning out in their numbers by an ineffective and inept match official. One day it has to stop.
I’ve just watched the incident again and I won’t be swayed into even agreeing it is a yellow. As far as I’m concerned there is no similarity between Sadio Mane’s raised foot for Liverpool and Billy’s, because I don’t think Billy’s foot was raised. He had control of the ball, the play was with him. Their player has stooped in, and the official reason is that Billy was endangering their lad. Where do we draw the line? If Raggs dived in, head-first, at the feet of Terry Hawkridge, could Hawkridge be sent off for endangering the player?
Also, if that was a red card, how was their lad not sent off in the second half? How was their first goal allowed when their player had his feet at the same height as Billy’s when he connected with the ball? How can we still allow this wonderful game to be spoiled by such a poor level of officiating. Seb Stockbridge might get a dressing down for this, but we’ll never know will we? Referees are protected beyond belief, never having to justify their actions nor be held accountable for the terrible decisions they make. What makes this even worse is that we probably won’t get it rescinded because the boys club at the FA will rally around their inept, unaccountable officials and close the doors on the Football League newcomers.
I might write about the game and my day out later, the heavy police presence in Nottingham which (in my opinion) was good-natured and unobtrusive, or perhaps the same in Lincoln where (in my opinion) I do not understand the need for police to welcome home fans off a train into their home city. I might talk about how good County were (against ten men), or about how much I enjoyed my day with Neil (got you a mention as promised), Regan and my old man. However, I might take in Lincoln Green and Golden Eagle and forget all about yesterday, the injustice and the anger, and try solely to focus on Barnet this Tuesday. Who knows?
Thanks to Graham Burrell and Lincoln City FC for the feature photo