The Man in the Middle – Sunderland

The Imps have a brief respite from League One action this week, with a trip to Sunderland in the EFL Trophy semi-final.

It feels a little odd, not quite having the same weight behind it like the previous time we got to this stage against Chelsea Under 21s. Maybe the fact we hadn’t been to Wembley was a factor, or that in 2018 we could actually go as fans. I feel that a trip to the final could be huge for us as a club, but somehow I’m not excited about it, instead, I’m really focused on the promotion battle. One person I’m hoping will be focused on the game is the match officials, announced recently.

Referee: Ben Toner
Assistants Refs: Andrew Dallison and David Hunt
Fourth Official: James Bell

Credit Graham Burrell

Hopefully, Ben Toner taking charge of the game is a positive omen. It will be the third time this season he has officiated one of our games, with the 4-1 win against Shrewsbury and the 3-1 victory over Mansfield in this competition the other two occasions. He was also in charge of one of our games back in 2017/18 when we won the trophy, that being our 1-0 win away at Rochdale in the second round. Toner will be taking charge of his 14th Imps game in total, and he doesn’t necessarily like a red card, he’s only flashed one this season, in Carlisle’s 1-0 win against Barrow and Mansfield’s 4-0 victory over Port Vale.

In 2018/19 he sent off just six players in 38 matches, two of which were Imps. He took charge of the 2-2 draw with Swindon in which Jason Shackell and Bruno Andrade were dismissed, neither of which we could complain too much about. He also sent off Ishmael Miller in our 1-1 draw with Oldham earlier that season. Other notable games he has officiated include our 1-0 FA Cup win against Ipswich, as well as last season’s 2-0 win at Burton and 2-0 defeat at home to Portsmouth, handing out a hefty 13 yellow cards across the two ties.

Of the 15 games of ours he’s officiated, we have won eight, drawn three and lost three.