Much of a team’s success or failure on any given weekend can hinge on one variable few can control; the referee.
Before any budding amateur refs jump on me from a great height, I’m not being completely critical. It’s a hard job and in some instances the ref makes a wrong decision, I get that. What I don’t approve of, at all, is the referee who you know will be awful. Huxtable. Joyce. Stocksbridge. Collins. You know the type.
We’ve had some good ones, the MK Dons game was the best we’ve seen this season due in no small part to having a top class referee in Stuart Atwell. Whilst some could question David Coote’s decisions at the weekend, on the whole he put in a good performance which deserved praise, even though we were on the wrong end of a questionable call.
It’s not about the one-off incidents, it is about the overall display. Consistency, approachability, calm and ultimately control. This weekend against Forest Green we have a referee whom I believe has been fair and measured in all matches we’ve had him for.
It’s Anthony Backhouse and he last took control of a Lincoln game last season as we won at Stevenage. He sent Matt Green off for two bookable offences, one encroaching on the centre circle before a kick off and secondly kicking the ball away. Both, sadly, correct decisions to the letter of the law. He later sent one of their lads off too, correctly once again.
He’s followed us out of the National League as he’s now in his second season on the list. He’s already taking control of big League One games too, including Bradford and Sunderland, Barnsley and Bristol Rovers and Sunderland against Scunthorpe at the Stadium of Light. He’s not one to flash a red card unless it’s warranted either, sending off two in the Bradford game correctly. He does tend to throw a booking or two around, but not too many. Just enough to assert his authority.
In our title-winning year he took control of Tranmere at home where Andy Mangan conned a penalty from him with a dive, then he was back at the Bank as we played Dover, another tough game to officiate. He was chosen for a third match at the Bank later in the year against Dagenham, the second televised game at our ground. Clearly, he was respected at that level and that is good enough for me.
Interestingly (kind of) his first ever game was an away day for FGR at Gateshead and the fourth player he ever dismissed was Alan Power when we lost 5-1 at Halifax. Happy memories.