Ref Watch: Portsmouth (H)

The narrative for tomorrow’s game won’t be around the referee, it’ll be about who is in the opposition dugout.

Still, there will be many thousands of people in the ground, wearing kits, cheering their team or working the matchday that will also have an effect on the game, rather than two brothers on the touchline. One of the most important will be the referee.

Assistants: Paul Newhouse and Mark Stevens
Fourth Official: Stephen Wade

We first crossed paths with Ross Joyce during his extended stay in the National League. His first full year at that level was also ours, and he first came to the Bank as we drew 1-1 with Forest Green in September, where he issued just two yellow cards. He was back on Boxing Day as we lost 2-1 at home to Grimsby, and again in March as David Holdsworth secured a 2-0 win against Newport in the game that saw protests outside the ground against Bob Dorrian and the club board.

He was a regular at the Bank after that, sending off Jake Sheridan as we beat Dartford 2-1 in February 2013, then returning the favour a month later by sending off Alfreton’s Connor Franklin seven minutes into our 2-0 win at their place (Craig Hobson scored for us, happy days). He certainly had a busy game when we travelled to Halifax in 2014/15, awarding two penalties and sending of Hamza Bencherif as we lost 3-2. By that point, his stock was rising and he was awarded the play-off final, in which Bristol Rovers beat Grimsby on penalties, a great day for Imps fans. That saw him promoted to the Football League list, leaving us behind, for a short while. Curiously, in 16/17 he sent off 12 in 44 matches, but the following season just two in 41.

Ross Joyce was in charge of this one – Courtesy Graham Burrell

Our paths first crossed in the Football League on November 18 against Coventry, a game where Jodi Jones destroyed us, and a game refereed fairly as I recall. He was back as we drew 2-2 with Notts County on Freck’s return to the side, and that is where I began to get a dim view of him. Perhaps rather harshly, I described him thus (and it is only my opinion) – an absolute shambles of a man, inept to the point where he defines the word rather than being described by it. He’s clearly out of his depth, this match was high pressure, lots of noise and two teams who know every trick in the book. It seems someone at the FA reads the site because despite before popping up to send off Michael O’Connor against Mansfield in the EFL Trophy the following season, he barely features in the middle again for one of our games. He did get the League Two play-off final, as well as the FA Vase final. Since then, he hasn’t been to the Bank, but he did take charge of our 1-1 draw with Rochdale in 2019/20, and our abject 3-0 defeat at home against Gillingham last season

This season, he has officiated 13 matches, showing 49 yellows and two reds. That’s almost four per game, more than the average. Expect a few to be flashed around tomorrow night.