The Man in the Middle: MK Dons (H)

After a solid result against Blackpool at the weekend, albeit one that some might think was fortuitous, City head into tomorrow’s clash with MK Dons aiming to make a big statement to those writing off our League One chances.

I have found some despair in the website The 72 releasing an article today claiming we’ve ‘sunk like a stone’ and suggesting Michael Appleton should take over at Coventry. I felt a little sad after the Blackpool draw that many seem to just want this season to end now, given how much we have left to play for.

We’re the team most likely to finish sixth based on points per game, and the resilience we’ve shown against Sunderland and Blackpool in two of our last three matches underlines that. Hell, that defeat against Oxford might count in terms of points and games played, but it means nothing to me at all, given what the squad went through in the hours leading up to it.

Great comeback – Credit Graham Burrell

No, we’re still in this, and a win against MK Dons would make a big statement, not least to Charlton who do not play. We could end the night four point clear of them in seventh. That makes it a pivotal Tuesday evening at the Bank, and as such, we need a decent referee. Despite looking good on paper, I felt this weekend’s official missed a couple of key things (Blackpool fans feel he did too), but overall he wasn’t fussy. In fact, he was a little too lenient, with a few fouls on Callum Morton going unnoticed. Are we likely to see the same this week?

Referee: Robert Madley
Assistant Referees: Robert Atkin and Alan Clayton
Fourth Official: James Bell

Robert ‘Bobby’ Madley is a big-name referee who has taken charge of two Imps matches this season – the 1-0 defeat at Doncaster and our draw with Hull in the EFL Trophy. On both occasions, he officiated with common sense and was barely worth a mention, just the type of official you like to see at your games.

We first saw him during our relegation season, 2010/11, when he took charge of out 0-0 draw at home against Stockport (so riveting and combative there wasn’t a single booking), and later an impressive but ultimately futile 1-0 win at Hereford. By the time we came back in 2017/18, Bobby Madley was a Premier League official, with a Championship play-off game under his belt as well as a couple of years of top-flight officiating. He had the 2017 Community Shield and had ascended to international football, looking after Iceland v Ghana at the end of the year.

His career collapsed in 2018 when, after being body-shamed in the national news, he sent an ill-advised Snapchat message to a supposed friend, and ended up having to leave the game. In a testament to his character, he battled back and was reinstated on the national list for the beginning of this season.

Madley is a reasoned referee who has handed out 89 yellow cards across his 29 games this season, a little under three per game. He has shown four reds this season, the first of which went to Jim McNulty of Rochdale, who left him no choice after kicking Wigan’s Kyle Joseph. He’s flashed three in the last ten, sending off Joe Bunney of Grimsby, Seamus Connelly of Accrington and Bristol Rovers’ Joe Day.