Ref Watch: Reading (H)

Assistants Matthew McGrath and Robert Merchant
Fourth Official: Martin Coy

Madley is an official I quite like, and whilst he’s mainly a Championship ref now, he’s in charge of our game this weekend.

He took charge of three Imps matches in 2020/21 – the 1-0 defeat at Doncaster and our draw with Hull in the EFL Trophy being two of them. On both occasions, he officiated with common sense and was barely worth a mention, just the type of official you like to see at your games. The final time he came across our path was the game against MK Dons, in which we recorded a 4-0 win. Again, he wasn’t the centre of attention, and he could easily have dismissed Brennan Johnson early doors but chose not to.

We first saw him during our relegation season, 2010/11, when he took charge of our 0-0 draw at home against Stockport (so riveting and combative there wasn’t a single booking), and later an impressive but ultimately futile 1-0 win at Hereford. By the time we came back in 2017/18, Bobby Madley was a Premier League official, with a Championship play-off game under his belt as well as a couple of years of top-flight officiating. He had the 2017 Community Shield and had ascended to international football, looking after Iceland v Ghana at the end of the year.

Credit Graham Burrell

His career collapsed in 2018 when, after being body-shamed in the national news, he sent an ill-advised Snapchat message to a supposed friend and ended up having to leave the game. In a testament to his character, he battled back and was reinstated on the national list at the beginning of 2020/21.

His last outings in Imps fixtures were all in 2021/22 – a 1-1 draw with Shrewsbury, our FA Cup humbling at the hands of Hartlepool, and the game against Charlton, which saw Alex Gilbey and Morgan Whittaker sent off.

Most of his games this season have been in the second tier, where he’s as low as 35/41 for fouls per game and 37/41 for fouls awarded per tackle. Players need to make sure they stay on his good side – he’s 12/41 for yellows per game and second for reds per game. He might let the action flow, but when he’s spots something he doesn’t like, a card comes out.