Our Friday night encounter with Sam Ricketts’ side promises to be a big occasion but, for the match referee, it’s the biggest of occasions.
Josh Smith will take control of the game and he’s a relatively local lad who is stepping up to the Football League for the first time this season. He only had one year in the National League and at 26-years-old is one of the youngest officials ever to take charge of a Lincoln game.
He’s a former pupil of Bourne Grammar School who started out as a player for Bourne Town Juniors, switching to officiating aged 14. He spent one year in the National League, handing out five red cards and 75 yellow cards in 21 matches. He had previously spent two years as an assistant referee in the Football League; the youngest assistant in the league at the time.
Thus far this season he’s officiated six League Two matches and sent off just one player; Antoni Sarcevic in Plymouth’s 3-0 win against Walsall on the opening day of the season. He’s also taken charge of two EFL Trophy matches, the most recent of which was Wycombe’s 1-0 defeat against Stevenage on October 8th.
He took charge of Orient’s title-winning game with Braintree last season, saying; “It’s the biggest crowd I’ve experienced in the middle, although I have run the line at Ipswich and Portsmouth in front of bigger attendances. When you start refereeing you automatically have an ambition to get to Football League level, but you don’t expect it to happen.”
Interestingly, he has actually officiated in League One before, but not for a whole game. Graham Horwood took charge of a game between Northampton against Bristol Rovers three years ago, but got injured prompting Smith to take over. he might have only been in control for a short while, but he handed out a red card to Gabriel Zakuani for a second bookable offence and then saw Bristol Rovers snatch a late winner, 3-2.
It’ll be interesting to see how this young referee, one of three in their early twenties promoted to the roster last season, handles his biggest game so far.