The Man in the Middle: Crewe Alexandra

There’s no denying it, we’re going through a tough period.

There’s also no denying that we do not often beat a team three times in a season. Think back to teams we’ve played in cups as well as the league. Accrington (x2), Rotherham, Ipswich, Port Vale, Mansfield (x2), Northampton, Carlisle, Notts County, Exeter, Guiseley, Boreham Wood and York have all featured three times (or more) in a single season in the past five years, and do you know how many of them we beat three times? None.

In fact, in the last five years, we have only played one team three times in a season and won all three, Gateshead in 2016/17. That makes this a huge game for us in more ways than one. So, who are the FA entrusting to officiate the game? I sincerely hope he is as good (in my opinion) as David Rock from Tuesday, who had an efficient and clean evening against Fleetwood.

Referee: JOHN BUSBY
Assistants: Joe Clark and Bradley Hall
Fourth Official : David Richardson

Busby is an interesting character with a few reds to his name this season. Indeed, current Morecambe boss Derek Adams once labelled him the ‘worst referee’ to visit his former club, Plymouth, in a single season. Our own experiences are a little different though. His very first game as a National League referee was the tie between us and Braintree back in 2015/16, where he sent off Mitch Brundle for them and awarded us a 73rd-minute penalty which handed us a 2-1 lead. Later in the season, he had an unfussy outing as we drew 1-1 with Welling at the Bank.

Credit Graham Burrell

He went straight to the Football League in 2016/17, so his next appearance in a City game came as we went down 1-0 to Port Vale the week after our Wembley triumph. He was also the official when Jason Shackell bagged a last-gasp winner at Macclesfield in the title-winning season, and again as we drew 1-1 with MK Dons last season.

We haven’t seen him yet this season, but in 23 games he has handed out 59 yellows and five reds, averaging around three yellows per game and a red every four matches. Our match this weekend comes after four without a red, is that something to read into I wonder?