Ref Watch: Port Vale (A)

Credit Graham Burrell

Referee: James Bell
Assistants: Alex Gray and Karl Buckley
Fourth Official: Lee Freeman

It’s funny, when people talk about refereeing injustice and Lincoln City, they talk about George Cain, Yeo’s offside in 2005 and maybe the awful penalty that denied us a place in the FA Trophy final against York City.

However, one thing that springs to my mind is Brett Huxtable waving away the protests after a Harold Schumacher-style assault on Lee Frecklington at Port Vale in 2018/19. We won that game 6-2, and it is often viewed as a great result for us, but it should have been better. Their keeper should have walked, and their late penalty was dubious. Joke.

Will we be seeing a similar performance this week, or will we be handled competently like most referees at our level? I think the latter because James Bell is an official more at home in the Championship. We’ve got a decent one this weekend.

Courtesy Graham Burrell

He made his Football League debut in the 20/21 season and popped up as we hammered Burton 5-1 and then the following season. Having predominately taken charge of games in League Two, he stepped up again the following campaign, officiating one of our matches, a tough game to officiate away at Wycombe. He handed out four bookings in that encounter, but no reds. His third and final appearance at an Imps game was in the EFL Trophy as we went down to Carlisle on penalties. You know, the Adelakun drinking game.

Since then, he’s climbed to the Championship and this season has officiated just two matches at our level, Debry and Burton, and Shrewsbury against Derby. Besides that, he’s had big games such as Leeds Huddersfield, Southampton, and Cardiff. He must be relatively local to Stoke, as he has had four of their home games this campaign.

Credit Graham Burrell

He’s one for letting the game flow – he’s 39/46 for fouls awarded per game, just 19.85, way below the top figure of 29. Fouls per tackle is a little higher at 32, meaning he’s perhaps had slightly ‘easier’ games than some, and at 27/46 for yellows per game, he isn’t afraid to flash a card. Also, I made the dangerous assertion we hadn’t conceded a penalty yet this season – Bell is 20/46 for penalties awarded and 5/46 for red cards. What price a professional foul and penalty for Port Vale, now I’ve tempted fate?