The Man in the Middle: Charlton (A)

I shall shy away from saying too much about the level of refereeing we received this weekend.

We have been lucky of late, and even John Busby wasn’t a bad ref until the very last minute of the game. What I will say is this: he was believed to be in line for promotion to the Select Group 2 according to this refereeing forum, and his error could well cost him more than it does us in the grand scheme of things. Referees are only human and he was utterly conned by Szmodics, who perhaps should be the villain of the hour over and above the referee, who let’s be honest, didn’t have a bad game up until that second. Sadly, football is all about moments.

Today’s match again Charlton means little in the grand scheme of things, but are we set for another howler, or do we have a competent referee, as we have had in many of our recent matches?

Referee: Kevin Johnson
Assistants: Dean Treleaven and Paul Evans
Fourth Official: Carl Brook

The match referee is Kevin Johnson, and he is well known to us after sending off Jon Nolan as we beat Ipswich Town 1-0 earlier in the season. He also awarded us a penalty in that game, prompting Paul Lambert to proclaim his side didn’t lose to Lincoln, they lost to Johnson. In truth, they didn’t, but Johnson didn’t have a great game although he did give us the key decisions.

He was also in charge as we drew 1-1 there in the FA Cup a couple of years ago, awarding us a penalty that Tyler Walker missed. In that game, I said that ‘he seemed intent on letting the game flow, which isn’t a good thing when he’s missing obvious penalties’ after Jake Hesketh was tripped in the area. Bear in mind, I said something similar about John Busby….. Still, Johnson did award us the penalty in the Ipswich match that could have sent us through to a second-round tie with Coventry, so he isn’t averse to pointing to the spot.

A bit like John Busby.

Big John tucks away a penalty awarded by Kevin Johnson – Courtesy Graham Burrell

Before that, Johnson was in charge of our 2-0 win at MK Dons which all but secured the League Two title, and again three weeks later (curiously) as we lost 1-0 at Newport. He did once show two red cards in a game involving the Imps, sending off Vadaine Oliver and Neill Byrne for an off the ball incident in Gary Simpson’s first win as Imps boss. The last time we saw him was the 4-3 defeat at Home Park against Plymouth, and on that occasion, I had praise for him again. This time, he failed to award a second yellow to a player he’d previously booked, and I said: “…referee Kevin Johnson chose not to issue a second yellow. In truth, it would have been harsh, and it was sensible from the ref to give the player a chance. Like it or not, a referee should be trying to keep it 11 against 11 where possible and although there were means to send Fornah off, if the shoe was on the other foot, we might have been unhappy.”

Generally, I don’t think the standard of refereeing is bad in this division. There are one or two you hate to see, and decisions they don’t get right, but overall, I think we have plenty of good officials who do a very tough and demanding job in which every blow of the whistle angers someone.