Ref Watch: Sunderland (H) EFL Trophy

The Imps host Sunderland tomorrow evening in a replay of the EFL Trophy semi-final from earlier in the season. 

On that occasion, it took penalties to separate the two teams; with £10k at stake, will we see the same drama? A draw sends us through, but only a specific set of results sees us eliminated. Oddly, this is our final game in the competition, Sunderland haven’t kicked a ball in anger as yet.

Here’s how we don’t qualify – we lose to Sunderland tomorrow, leaving us on six points. This is where it gets tricky – Manchester United U21s would need to beat Sunderland by two goals to advance, as they’re two goals and three points behind us (and if we lose to Sunderland, our goal difference will dip by at least one). Assuming that is by two goals, it leaves Sunderland needing to beat us and Bradford and have a five-goal swing (correcting the two they concede to Man Utd), but every one against us counts double (as we lose one and they gain one). As they’d beaten us, they’d advance by virtue of our result on a shared goal difference. As we beat Man Utd, they need to better our goal difference. Confusing? You bet. Any result other than a defeat sees us go through.

Which referee is taking charge of this insane game?

Referee: Scott Oldham
Assistant Referee: Anthony Da Costa, Marc Wilson
Fourth Official: Matthew Smith

Like many of this season’s officials, Scott Oldham graduated from the National League around the same time as us. He was on the National League roster in 2016/17, but he did not take charge of one of our games. He did referee the 2-2 draw between Aldershot and Tranmere in the play-offs though, and such was his calm approach to games; he didn’t brandish a red card all season. That earned him a spot in the League Two the same year we went up.

The first time we came across him was in our 1-0 win at Swindon in the 2017/18 season, before he visited Sincil Bank for the first time later in the season as we beat Newport 3-1. Both games saw him book two Imps players, but the red card stayed in his pocket again, and the penalty spot wasn’t troubled.

Oldham watches on at the Bank last season – Credit Graham Burrell.

Oldham was something of a lucky charm for us, the following season we saw him once as we beat Yeovil 1-0 at the Bank, thanks to Mark O’Hara’s header. In 34 matches that year, he sent off just one player and booked 99. It’s fair to say when he can, his cards stay in his pocket, although in 2019/20, he did brandish five in his 32 games, including a little spell of four in eight games. He did appear in the middle of a City game twice. We were beaten 3-1 at current bogey side Doncaster in the EFL Trophy, the only game up until last season in which we have been beaten which he has officiated, and he was controlling our 3-2 win against Burton Albion. We did see him in charge of Ben Coker’s only game in a Lincoln shirt; the 3-0 victory against Rotherham United in the EFL Trophy.

He officiated us last season on a couple of occasions, the first our 2-1 defeat at Oxford, where he didn’t impress me. I was angry in that game after he missed a blatant penalty against us but levelled it up with a handball missed in their goal. Then he could (and should) have sent their keeper off, turning in an inconsistent display, to which I remarked: “The referee continued in his inconsistent vein, booking Edun for the faintest of pullbacks on their player, but then ignoring a worse infringement from Hanson on Harry, again, not long after. If one is a yellow ref, the other has to be; it shouldn’t matter if you have already booked the player. There was another blatant handball in a move by Sykes, which was missed, but then Scully offended in the same way, and it was caught. I’m not saying those incidents changed the game, but they just poured more sand into the side of my scales marked ‘injustice’.” He also took charge of our final day 0-0 final day draw with Wimbledon, a game notable for having nothing of note occur in it.

He has booked 20 players this season and sent two off in ten games, which shows him to be quite reserved with his cards. If we’d progressed in the EFL Cup, we might have crossed paths, as he took charge of Shrewsbury’s second-round tie with Rochdale, sending off Matthew Pennington. Interestingly, he has given a penalty in two matches this season; he sent players off in the same games and for the same incidents. Double whammy.

Here’s another interesting stat – he’s reffed seven Sunderland games in his career, and six of those have been a 1-1 draw.