A non-league referee has left two Conference sides with good cause to question his decisions, reports Back of the Net's John Foster...
Tuesday nightÃ¢ÂÂs Conference National clash between Southport and Wrexham descended into chaos after referee Seb Stockbridge stopped telling players his decisions, requiring them instead to guess why he had blown his whistle.
Ã¢ÂÂIt wasnÃ¢ÂÂt easy out there,Ã¢ÂÂ admitted Wrexham captain Dean Keates, in the wake of his sideÃ¢ÂÂs hard-fought 4-1 victory. Ã¢ÂÂThe ref would whistle, and then heÃ¢ÂÂd just stand there with his hands behind his back while we tried to work out what he wanted.Ã¢ÂÂ
Ã¢ÂÂEventually someone would say something like Ã¢ÂÂencroachment at a throw-inÃ¢ÂÂ and heÃ¢ÂÂd nod curtly and the game would continue.Ã¢ÂÂ
Ã¢ÂÂI donÃ¢ÂÂt know if he was bored, or shy, or just quite aloof,Ã¢ÂÂ Keates continued. Ã¢ÂÂBut what I do know is, just when weÃ¢ÂÂd started getting the hang of it, he started awarding corners for correct guesses, which made everything much harder.Ã¢ÂÂ
"Goal kick? Penalty? Match abandoned due to ref getting trapped in invisible box?"
Southport striker Darren Stephenson told FourFourTwo that the refereeÃ¢ÂÂs assistants proved no help whatsoever.
Ã¢ÂÂHe [Stockbridge] made it clear before the game that one linesman always told the truth and the other always lied, but he didnÃ¢ÂÂt tell us which,Ã¢ÂÂ reported Stephenson. Ã¢ÂÂBy the time I thought to ask one of them Ã¢ÂÂwould the other linesman flag if their fullback was clearly playing me on?Ã¢ÂÂ the game was over as a contest.Ã¢ÂÂ
Southport will point to the departure of Godfrey Poku, who left the field in the 54th minute wrongly convinced heÃ¢ÂÂd been sent off, as the turning point.
Ã¢ÂÂWe complained to the fourth official,Ã¢ÂÂ said Stephenson, Ã¢ÂÂBut he spoke only in riddles and ambiguities and answered every question with another question, which isnÃ¢ÂÂt what you want at this level.Ã¢ÂÂ
Stephenson also pointed out that this was not the first time a controversial decision has gone against Southport. Last week the Merseyside outfit were forced to battle back from two goals down at home to Hereford after the officials decided that away goals would literally count double shortly after the Bulls went 1-0 ahead.
Editor's note: this isn't a serious accusation and all quotes are fictionalised. But you knew that, because you're not stupid.
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