Ref Watch: Wigan Athletic (A)

Back in 2017, I was on a platform at Nottingham station incandescent with rage at the performance of tomorrow night’s referee, Seb Stockbridge.

Oddly, this weekend I was also on a Nottingham train station platform when I found out he would be officiating our game against Wigan. For a moment, I felt a deep sense of foreboding, but that might actually be a little misplaced.

Assistants: Conor Brown and Ian Smedley
Fourth Official: Christopher Ward

I’ll happily comment on a ref after the fact, but to condemn the man before a game wouldn’t be entirely fair. My distaste for Stockbridge stems from a game against Notts County you may recall, where Billy Knott was sent off for a high boot (the like we see every week these days), and in a game we ended up losing 4-1. Since then, he’s not been unfair on us, but he does like the roar of the home crowd. He awarded us a penalty in a 2-0 win against Accrington which wasn’t one at all, and the red card he flashed was rescinded too. I also felt he let us off the hook as we beat Bury 2-1, sending a player off and giving us a penalty too. All three were big games at the top of the table, all three saw the visitors reduced to ten men. I’ve said before he likes the roar of the home crowd, so maybe empty stands will be a blessing.

City v Hull – Credit Graham Burrell

In fairness, he was also in charge of our game against Morecambe in the title-winning season, showing just three yellow cards as we brushed them aside by three goals to one, and I thought he had a decent game back then. Last season he took charge of our 0-0 draw with Hull, and he didn’t get a mention from me at all. I wouldn’t want to taint him with the one bad game he had against us in 2017, but remember we are the away side tomorrow.

Is he really a ‘homer’, as they’re labelled. This season, he has sent off one player and awarded one penalty; it was the home team who benefitted. That came as Harrogate drew 1-1 with Exeter. Of his four red cards last season, three came for an away team and only once did he dimiss a player at home, that in the EFL Trophy. In fact, the last time he sent off a home player in a league game was March 2020, just before lockdown. However, he sent off four home players that season, and just two away. Oddly in two instances, he sent off an away player after sending off a home player. Evening things up? I’m sure that’s not the case!