Ref Watch: Cheltenham Town (A)

Credit Graham Burrell

Referee: DARREN HANDLEY
Assistants: Ravel Cheosiaua and Oliver Bickle
Fourth Official: Will Finnie

Darren Handley, the referee scheduled for our first encounter with Cheltenham, is an experienced official – he first popped up back in 2011/12 during our Blue Square Premier stint. He was in charge of our 2-0 defeat at York but rose to prominence in 2013/14 for City fans. He sent off Bohan Dixon in our 1-1 draw with Grimsby, booking six other Imps and dismissing Lennel John-Lewis for the hosts. Unlike us, he was promoted at the end of the season.

In 2017/18, we had him a couple of times. The first was in our 0-0 draw with Crawley Town, when 0-0 draws were not common at home. There were boos at the end of the game, and I noted, “I do hope the booing I heard at the final whistle was aimed at the fan’s perception of the referee; I know he was picky and inconsistent this afternoon and passed over two decent penalty shouts too.” 

Luke scores against Colchester (courtesy of Graham Burrell)

He earned a few boos later in the season as Luke Waterfall snatched us a 2-1 win against Colchester. I’m sure loads of you recall him getting the late header, but do you remember Bozzie being sent off? He was dismissed on 83 minutes, but the FA rescinded the card, allowing the man mountain to appear against Coventry at the Ricoh later that week. Oddly, the only time we’ve had this ref since was at the Ricoh, as we lost 1-0 a couple of years ago.

Since then, Darren’s enjoyed a few reds. He showed seven in just 16 matches in 2020/21, and this season he’s shown five, including two in the Hartlepool and Rochdale game in January. He’s 17th out of 60 for fouls per game and 29th out of 60 for fouls per tackle, which is fairly average. Also, he hasn’t awarded a penalty since March, so perhaps we might have an incident-free game tomorrow night.