Eventually, you knew it would happen again. You did, deep down.
The referee has been announced for our game this weekend, and it’s one you’re going to recognise.
Referee: SEBASTIAN STOCKBRIDGE
Assistants: Ollie Williams and Joe Clark
Fourth Official: Bradley Hall
Now, as a caveat, I will add that we’ve had him once already this season, away at Wigan, and that was our last win in the league. Maybe his appearances in the middle against us will be like bookends either side of a horrible run, who knows?
As you know, I’ll happily comment on a ref after the fact, but to condemn the man before the Oxford 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 He awarded us a penalty in a 2-0 win against Accrington which wasn’t one at all, and the red card he flashed was rescinded too.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 we’re on to a winner. We’re due a bit of luck at home!
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 I always seem to. There have been far, far worse than him since 2017, that’s for sure.
Is he really a ‘homer’, as they’re labelled? This season, he has sent off two players and awarded one penalty; it was the home team who benefitted. One of each came as Harrogate drew 1-1 with Exeter, and he sent off Ricardo Santos for Bolton away at Fleetwood. 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.