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Back of the Net
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 night’s 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.
“It wasn’t easy out there,” admitted Wrexham captain Dean Keates, in the wake of his side’s hard-fought 4-1 victory. “The ref would whistle, and then he’d just stand there with his hands behind his back while we tried to work out what he wanted.”
“Eventually someone would say something like ‘encroachment at a throw-in’ and he’d nod curtly and the game would continue.”
“I don’t know if he was bored, or shy, or just quite aloof,” Keates continued. “But what I do know is, just when we’d started getting the hang of it, he started awarding corners for correct guesses, which made everything much harder.”
"Goal kick? Penalty? Match abandoned due to ref getting trapped in invisible box?"
Southport striker Darren Stephenson told FourFourTwo that the referee’s assistants proved no help whatsoever.
“He [Stockbridge] made it clear before the game that one linesman always told the truth and the other always lied, but he didn’t tell us which,” reported Stephenson. “By the time I thought to ask one of them ‘would the other linesman flag if their fullback was clearly playing me on?’ the game was over as a contest.”
Southport will point to the departure of Godfrey Poku, who left the field in the 54th minute wrongly convinced he’d been sent off, as the turning point.
“We complained to the fourth official,” said Stephenson, “But he spoke only in riddles and ambiguities and answered every question with another question, which isn’t what you want at this level.”
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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