There will be a familiar face on the touchline as we meet Gillingham this weekend, but I’m not talking about our favourite pantomime villain.
Just under a week ago, Chris Sarginson was taking control of our encounter with Accrington, yet this week he will be the fourth official. I do find it interesting that Evans is in town and we get a strong referee as the fourth official. Maybe that says something? Of course, there is also a referee to talk about, and this week we have Ross Joyce.
We first crossed paths with Ross Joyce during his extended stay in the National League. His first full year at that level was also ours, and he first came to the Bank as we drew 1-1 with Forest Green in September, where he issued just two yellow cards. He was back on Boxing Day as we lost 2-1 at home to Grimsby, and again in March as David Holdsworth secured a 2-0 win against Newport in the game that saw protests outside the ground against Bob Dorrian and the club board. Oh, how times change.
He was a regular at the Bank after that, sending off Jake Sheridan as we beat Dartford 2-1 in February 2013, then returning the favour a month later by sending off Alfreton’s Connor Franklin seven minutes into our 2-0 win at their place (Craig Hobson scored for us, happy days). He certainly had a busy game when we travelled to Halifax in 2014/15, awarding two penalties and sending of Hamza Bencherif as we lost 3-2. By that point, his stock was rising and he was awarded the play-off final, in which Bristol Rovers beat Grimsby on penalties, a great day for Imps fans. That saw him promoted to the Football League list, leaving us behind, for a short while. Curiously, in 16/17 he sent off 12 in 44 matches, but the following season just two in 41.
Our paths first crossed in the Football League on November 18 against Coventry, a game where Jodi Jones destroyed us, and a game refereed fairly as I recall. He was back as we drew 2-2 with Notts County on Freck’s return to the side, and that is where I began to get a dim view of him. Perhaps rather harshly, I described him thus (and it is only my opinion) – an absolute shambles of a man, inept to the point where he defines the word rather than being described by it. He’s clearly out of his depth, this match was high pressure, lots of noise and two teams who know every trick in the book. It seems someone at the FA reads the site because despite before popping up to send off Michael O’Connor against Mansfield in the EFL Trophy the following season, that was the only time he officiated our matches again, but he did get the League Two play-off final, as well as the FA Vase final.
Since then, he hasn’t been to the Bank, instead taking charge of our 1-1 draw with Rochdale last season at Spotland. This season, he has officiated 17 matches, showing 70 yellows and three reds, but the FA Cup tie between Marine and Havant accounted for ten yellows and one red from that total. He has taken charge of three League One matches, Doncaster v Blackpool (in which he awarded two penalties), Wigan v Peterborough and Accrington v Oxford (one penalty, one red card).
I imagine, with his extensive experience, Joyce will not take any prisoners, and if cards need showing, he will flash them. I also wonder if he will be a little more receptive to awarding penalties, as he doesn’t appear to shy away from them – although in 17 games he has officiated this season, only five have been awarded and scored.