Ref Watch: Shrewsbury Town (A)

Assistants: Kevin Mulraine and Daniel Robinson
Fourth Official: Declan O’Shea

Oh boy – what an introduction to the new season this is. I’ve been critical of a couple of the referees we’ve had recently, and here I am again, not exactly filled with joy. Maybe that’s harsh, but there are good refs, and there are those who have been weak in the past. Then, there’s Ross Joyce.

I have a love/hate relationship with Ross Joyce, not that he knows that. We (Lincoln City and him, not me and him personally) first crossed paths 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, remember him, Gav Hughes?). He certainly had a busy game when we travelled to Halifax in 2014/15, awarding two penalties and sending off 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.

Credit 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, describing him as an absolute shambles of a man, inept to the point where he defines the word rather than being described by it. It didn’t change him, he next popped up to send off Michael O’Connor against Mansfield in the EFL Trophy the following season in another controversial game.

Since then, he has been in charge of us a few times, two of which were 3-0 home defeats. One was our abject 3-0 defeat at home against Gillingham, the other an equally as tough reverse against Portsmouth. Last season, he drew my ire again as we were held at home by Accrington. In that game, he could have sent off Doug Tharme for a penalty he gave away but didn’t because of the double jeopardy rule. Instead, he only added two minutes of injury time despite some shocking time wasting by the visitors. “He added on just two minutes for the multiple instances of faked injury, time-wasting, and the like. I’m not sure we would have scored, but I haven’t seen a referee deal so pathetically poorly with the charade around him for a long time,” I said.

I’m never happy with added time, am I?

Joyce has had two games this season, both in our league. He awarded eight yellow cards in the Wigan and Northampton game, but just two in Port Vale’s dour 0-0 draw with Blackpool.