The Man in the Middle: Sunderland POSF

We did seem to spend a bit of time moaning about a certain referee towards the end of last season, and sadly for Mr Busby, his error seems to have lost him the chance of a play-off game.

We have had contentious moments in play-off matches: the disallowed goal against Exeter being a big one, and a certain penalty in Huddersfield another. Who will be in charge of our game on Wednesday, and what can we expect?

Assistants: Andrew Dallison and Hristo Karaivanov
Fourth Official: Sam Purkiss
Reserve AR: Stephen Wade

History doesn’t paint Mr Hicks in a great light, but he is clearly rated by the EFL so I suspect we have to give him the benefit of the doubt. We first encountered him in 2013/14 when he officiated our 2-1 win at Salisbury. In 2016/17, he took charge of our 0-0 draw with Aldershot and the 2-1 win at Torquay early in the season, where he awarded us a second-minute penalty. He was promoted to the Football League in the summer of 2017 (who wasn’t, right?) and was in charge as we lost 1-0 to Exeter City He has been good to us since then in terms of results, overseeing our 4-1 win at Crewe in 2017/18 and the 3-0 win at Crawley during our title-winning season.

Tough defeat at home against Shrewsbury – Credit Graham Burrell

There was some controversy last season as he failed to award us a ‘stonewall’ penalty in the defeat at Doncaster, with then-manager Danny Cowley feeling we should have had three. Likewise, when we lost 1-0 to Shrewsbury earlier in the season, I claimed he should have given us a couple of penalties which he did not. He does like to let the game flow, and in some instances that sees petty fouls get missed or players get let off. Is that a good thing? I suppose it depends if you’re fouled, or fouling!

However, he has generally proved to be a sound referee who lets football flow and who keeps his red cards in his pocket. In his last 20 matches he has awarded five penalties but hasn’t pointed to the spot since February. Across the whole season, Hicks had booked 92 players from 33 matches and sent off four, the last of which was Josh Earl for Burton against Sunderland.