Referee: SAM ALLISON
Assistants: Steve Durnall and Richard Wigglesworth
Fourth Official: Anthony Moore
Tonight we have a familiar face from a big cup night – Sam Allison was in charge when we played Bristol City in the Carabao Cup in autumn. Allison was also a ref we encountered in the National League; he took charge of our 3-2 win against Woking during our title season, awarding two penalties in the game. I praised him on that occasion, saying he took a brave stand to give us a spot-kick (which Dayle Southwell missed) before Woking’s late consolation strike from an Elliott Whitehouse foul. He was also in charge of our 1-1 draw at Southport as we famously said goodbye to the National League, but as we left, he didn’t. He remained in the National League until the 2020/21 season, when he earned his promotion to the ranks of the EFL, becoming the first black referee to step into the Football League since Uriah Rennie.
He was in charge of our 2-0 victory against Rochdale in 2020/21, and again there was no cause for me to mention the officials. The following week he flashed his only red card of the season, sending off Luke Waterfall in the game between Grimsby and Southend, both of whom were relegated. Last season we had him just once, away at Bolton, where we lost convincingly, and he had about as much to do as the Bolton keeper. This season, as well as Bristol City, he was in charge of our 2-0 defeat at Cambridge, which wasn’t a game he was really needed in; we were that poor.
He’s at the lower end of the spectrum for fouls per game, 41/60, whilst he is a touch higher for fouls per tackle, 35/60. He’s still a ‘middle of the road’ official who I don’t envisage too many issues with. In fairness, one decision we disagree with might turn us against a ref, but the ones we really should watch out for as fans are whistle-happy and make the game about them. Allison doesn’t, and he prefers to keep his cards in his pocket, coming in 46/60. The key things to look out for here is not always how low down a ref is on the list – that could be through getting fewer games, or easier games, but to ensure their numbers are relatively similar. If a ref is top for fouls per game, but bottom for yellows, it means he gives a lot of decisions but hates his cards. You expect a ref to be within five or ten places on all metrics, which suggests a balanced official.
Since our game against Bristol City, Allison has only awarded two penalties and sent a single player off. He sent off Ryan Bowman of Shrewsbury as they played Cambridge, and awarded a penalty to Burton as they won 3-2 at Port Vale. he gave one this weekend as well, in League Two, as Orient rubber-stamped their promotion to League One.