Ref Watch: Wycombe Wanderers (H)

Michael George and Gareth Viccars
Fourth Official: James Oldham

I think we’ve got a good one this weekend – Thomas Kirk is a first-year referee who enjoyed a single season in the National League before his promotion, and an official we’ve seen just once.

He had officiated at a lower level in the past, drawing the ire of former Imps defender Josh Gowling last September, but clearly, the anger Gowling felt wasn’t shared by assessors. He’s quickly risen through the ranks and may have hit the Football League sooner. His ‘real’ job took him to California for a couple of years, and he suffered from Covid, meaning his progress was slowed. He officiated seven National League matches last season and had a low yellow card ratio, averaging a little over two per game. He was promoted in the summer and has since had seven matches. Five of those have been in League Two, with one in the EFL Trophy and another in the League Cup. 

Credit Graham Burrell

He has been the official just once for us, earlier in the season when we beat Derby County 2-0. On that occasion, I said of his performance: “I thought he was excellent throughout, and there was a single decision I didn’t agree with, a free-kick late on for them and a booking for O’Connor. That aside, I thought he got the big calls right, let things flow and generally didn’t make it about him. This was the biggest game of his career so far and on that showing, I suspect we’ll see him ascend the ranks fairly quickly.”

This season Kirk has officiated five matches at our level – he’s 33/55 for fouls per game, which is below average. For fouls per tackle he’s lower – 37/55, but his yellows per game is 12/55 with 4.40. This shows two things. One, he is consistent with the fouls per tackle, but he just gives fewer fouls – however, when he does give a foul, he is not afraid to punish with a yellow. Expect to see a lower foul count than usual but yellows when he does blow up. I recall that from the Derby game – it flowed nicely, but he punished where applicable.

Also, watch for those tackles in the area – he’s given 0.60 penalties per game this season, the second most in the division. In his last game, on November 19th, he awarded a penalty, and on two occasions he’s given two in a game.