Incandescent with anger

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


  1. Agrre 100% with your comments, i have viewed the incident more than 100 times on a large screen frame by frame. Billy Knott played the ball, his eyes are on the ball the whole time and it is the County played who leans forward with his head low, in fact the more i watch it, it is no different than a player taking a dive in the penalty area.

  2. The County player’s head was at best thigh height, from where I was standing, but I feared the worst after the Mane incident, which bore no similarity. Perhaps he didn’t red card the County player because he knew he had made a mistake earlier? We were better than them until that point. Great day out, pity about the result.

  3. Agree totally, we had similar views of the “incident”. Bossman looked comfortable in defence towards the end, although he probably doesn’t want to play there. I’m concerned about not having a finisher (Greeeny may just need a goal, I don’t know) DC/NC may have to go looking on the unemployed heap to try and find another Theo.

  4. Well it was a long train ride back to Hastings and I wasn’t much fun at the dinner party I rocked up at when I got back. People think I am nuts when I blather on about the awful standard of officiating but it does beggar belief! Morecambe…Stevenage (that guy should be struck off)….Mansfield and yesterday. Their first goal was a lucky deflection…their third goal was never a free kick. They say refs will often even it up when they have made an error. When their guy did not receive the same as Billy, this tells you everything you need to know. Credit to County. They played well against ten men and they scored three quality goals. But they did not take us apart and conceding 4 was harsh on the team. Thought Danny gave a brilliant post match interview. So proud of the team and the awesome support. They say the table does not lie, but we have performed better than our position suggests during a tough set of fixtures. Hang in there!

  5. I took a couple of mates with me to watch the game yesterday, one a Brentford fan and the other a QPR fan. You wouldn’t believe how angry they both were with what had happened. Everyone, bar none, I have spoken with were truley shocked at the decision (even a couple of County fans I know and speak to on twitter). Both my friends agreed this was a better game, better atmosphere and better football than they have both witnessed with their own teams this season, that is for 30 minutes. We are all angry, rightly so, that a real good game and day out for over 11,600 true fans was ruined by inept and poor officiating. We had some stinkers last year and I was looking forward to a better quality of officials but after yesterday and the Mansfield game I am not confident. This has to be sorted out, it will kill the game we love.

  6. I rarely put my thoughts into written form but after yesterday decided it was time to take the plunge. Although the anger is understandable, my overriding feeling from half three onwards yesterday was one of disappointment and being emotionally drained at, as you quite rightly point out, being cheated out of a great local derby. However can I just add that the stewarding and policing in Nottingham was excellent, and that my highlight of the day had to be the Imps fans reaction to Terry Hawkridge scoring his goal. The ‘majority’ hopefully made the few idiots that had booed Terry in the first half feel as stupid as they obviously are, and the reception he received both after the goal and at full time showed a level of class that made me proud to be a Imp fan on an otherwise frustrating afternoon.

  7. County were always likely to look good against ten men but it wasnt just the extra man.Billy was playing in the hole behind Matt Green and until his dismisal we were creating chance upon chance so not only did we lose a player but we lost the whole game strategy.Disgraceful decision by the referee who only saw fit to book Sam Hamagham when he dared to point out that their forward had committed a high tackle later in the game.He didnt even call a foul do that just about says it all.Talk about a homer!!!Did anyone else notice that for a Lincoln free kick in the first half he allowed their player to stand just seven yards away not ten.I counted the paces and it was seven and he then draw the magic line.If they cant even count what hope do we have.

  8. Lowest rating for a referee in league two . Says it all, where do we get them from? nb football League newspaper

  9. This is football. It is imperfect. The refs are human and get things wrong, same as ‘keepers miss crosses, strikers miss sitters and defenders inexplicably handball. As you come away from a game it is all rhetorical questions “how did the ref give that?”, “why didn’t the ref give them this?”. I often hear talk of a ref being biased, but I never heard someone talk of a ref being biased towards their team. I bet there is a team out there who have the Lincoln version of Pawel Abott and George Cain that we don’t even think about.

    For my money, on the 10th watching of it I would say it was not a red card. Live action, foot was in the air, connected with the player’s head, can see why the ref has given it. I am almost always on the ref’s side as having done it for one Sunday league game I would rather eat glass than do that again. Unless it is Jarnail Singh, I have no time for him.

  10. @jonathan. Football may be imperfect but the fact is some decisions are much more than that. I’ll take a bad offside call and perhaps the odd dive in the box being given a penalty, but I will not accept what we saw on Saturday – an inept referee making a decision based on obvious home team pressure and unrelated ‘case law’, which killed the game, only to make exactly the opposite decision in the second half and booking the Lincoln player for protesting.

    That said – there has to be a better infingement system than this for referees. Dangerous play used to be breaking people’s legs, now it’s raising a foot, and yet the punishment is still the same – straight red. As the definitions have changed to include all kinds of low-level infringements, so should the punishment – a 20-minute suspension and yellow card rather than a red? Saturday’s decision would have been just as poor, but the game may have been saved.

  11. I saw it once and called it as a red. A friend who watched it seperately as a neutral called it a red. To the letter of the law his foot is over waist height which is what then gives Knott a problem with defending it. On the tenth view I think it is probably a yellow. It is hardly a clear cut mistake.

    I worry that the fixation with referees is taking away from an wider issue with our style. We are 21st in the fair play table, Notts County are 4th. Nathan Jones at Luton and FGR players have registered and issue with how we play (probably sour grapes). We have had two reds and our manager sent to the stands so far. a) is the colouring the refs’ perception which is an issue we need to take up with the FA. b) is this an issue we need to look into to avoid getting these decisions against us.

    20 minutes suspension sounds good and certainly something that needs to be looked it. I believe it is being trailled in Sunday League? Although I pity the Sunday league doing this who already has enough to contend with let alone extra clock management

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