Tale of two refs leaves Swindon smiling & seething

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Town fan Nick Judd reflects on two refereeing displays that left little to be desired...

If I failed to do my job properly I’d be suspended or fired, so why is it that referees continue to get away with embarrassing performances week in, week out?

The level of officiating in League 1 is about as good as the football on display... good in parts but largely inconsistent. You think decisions are contentious in the top flight? Come and watch a game in the nether regions of the football pyramid where there’s no media scrutiny.

Granted, bad decisions are a key ingredient of football no matter what the level – if referees got it right all the time, there’d be nothing to talk about  – but I’ve seen two game-breaking (and potentially season-breaking) decisions in four days, and both at the same ground!

Ifil: Punished

Firstly, a decision so bad, bank chief executives would be proud.

The culprit, a Mr A Hall – almost what he was being called by Town fans by full time – who awarded Hartlepool a stoppage-time penalty (Yes, another late goal) on Tuesday night.

To everyone's disbelief, Hall penalised, central defender, Jerel Ifil, for the use of a high boot on David Foley on the edge of the danger-zone.

Up stepped Ben Clark to squeeze the ball in between, goalkeeper, Peter Brezovan's grasp and the inside of the post. One-nil, game over and Hartlepool six points clear in the relegation battle.

“The referee wants to brush up on his rules because it’s absolutely never a penalty in a million years,” fumed manager Danny Wilson, understandably.

“It was a very poor decision to give. It’s stunned everybody in the ground, including the Hartlepool players themselves.’’

Also stunned were the 6,582 fans inside the County Ground four days earlier.

Those who’d travelled from Scunthorpe, and no doubt paid £100+ to come and watch their team, will have felt just a tad hard-done-by when the game became a non-entity when two red cards for Scunny - who had been 2-0 up and dominating - put Swindon firmly in the driving seat.

It all kicked-off with an x-rated challenge from David Mirfin in the first half that, apparently, only warranted a yellow card. He clattered Michael Timlin to the extent that the diminutive playmaker crumbled like a doll being tossed into a toy box.

However, to make amends, the referee later sent off Cliff Byrne. A late challenge, yes, but not a dirty one. But the whistle-blower may have been thinking about the red card he arguably should have, but didn't, dish out earlier.

Timlin: Pulverised

The visitors' real problem arose when Mirfin was later dismissed for a clumsy challenge. With 10 men, the Iron would probably have held on for a better result than the 4-2 defeat that followed. With nine men it was no contest. Not that I’m complaining!

The man in the middle on this occasion was a Mr C Sarginson. And a quick look at his record alongside Hall’s this season finds that they have collectively brandished 153 yellows and 10 reds in 45 games.

I just hope the referee inspectors sat next to me in the crowd took note; it wasn’t the players being booed at the final whistle on either occasion.

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