Officials for the EFL Trophy Quarter-Final tie between Yeovil Town and Fleetwood Town have been published by the Football League. The match takes place on Tuesday 6th February 2018, with a 7.45p.m. kick-off at Huish Park. The man in charge of the fixture will be referee Gavin Ward (Surrey). Mr Ward grew up officiating in the Kent and Isthmian Leagues, starting at the age of 13. For the 2007 Carling Cup Final he was the first match official to be appointed as "reserve assistant" (effectively a 5th official) in a major domestic Cup Final.
Our first experience of him as a man in the middle was for the 2-0 defeat at AFC Bournemouth in March 2008, followed by a February 2009 2-2 draw against Oldham Athletic - no complaints about either game. The first time we were critical of him came in the 0-1 home defeat against Huddersfield Town in January 2010. He denied us one penalty shout, then gave us our second shout for a spot kick, which sadly Dean Bowditch failed to score from. However, as the game went on, his stop-start and "over-fussy" nature of refereeing played into Huddersfield's hands and stopped the Glovers from building up a head of steam.
During the 2010-11 season, we had him twice in quick succession, during February and March 2011. He was the man in the middle for the midweek defeat against Peterborough United. We accused him of being "over-fussy" in this match - the same view we'd had in the 2009-10 season. There was nothing too major about his decision-making - just a tendency for him to provide a bit of a stop-start nature to the game, meaning that particularly during the first half the game failed to flow well, and it was difficult for the Glovers to build up a head of steam. We had far less to say about him a month later when he turned up for the away match against Exeter City, although five goals and a great Glovers comeback may have caused any negative vibes towards him to be forgotten!
For the 2011-12 season, we had him just the once. Despite it being a 3-1 win over Oldham Athletic in the opening home match of the 2011-12 season, we weren't impressed, saying that he made a "series of erratic decisions had infuriated the home crowd throughout". These included a dreadful tackle on Jonathan Obika that took him entirely out of the game, with the perpetrator Xander Diamond only getting a yellow. The same player committed another poor tackle later in the match and was lucky to stay on the field, although the referee may have been distracted by the fact that a few seconds later he blew for a penalty for a second foul. The Western Gazette said that Mr Ward's performance was "Dreadful, but in equal measure for both sides. Along with his officials he made some truly baffling decisions."
Mr Ward then covered our December 2012 game against Wycombe Wanderers. He made two big decisions during the match - one was to give Keanu Marsh-Brown a yellow card for diving, which secured him a one match suspension. Manager Gary Johnson said after the game that he agreed with the decision, and sounded far more narked with KMB's theatrics. The other decision was to dismiss Wycombe midfielder Matthew Spring for what he viewed as a two-footed tackle. On the one hand Spring's tackle wasn't malicious, but on the other hand, it was fairly typical of what we had seen in other Football League matches since that sort of a tackle began to be clamped down on. Wycombe boss Gareth Ainsworth though, was not best pleased with the decision, describing it as "harsh".
During the 2013-14 Championship season, he took charge of the September 2013 meeting between Yeovil Town and Queens Park Rangers at Huish Park. The visitors didn't have a single shot on target in open play throughout the whole 90 minutes. It was therefore rather irksome that the match was decided through Charlie Austin's penalty kick - awarded for one of those fifty-fifty mutual shirt-tug bits inside the box that saw Dan Seaborne penalised. Gary Johnson felt Austin had started the tugging, and had then gone down as soon as Seaborne did the same back. The Observer newspaper felt the same, describing it as "the softest of penalties" - there's been worse decisions at Huish Park over the years, but as Johnson said after the game, it was typical of the way the fifty-fifty decisions were awarded during the match.
He was present for the August 2014 match against Barnsley, shortly after both clubs had dropped down into League One. Overall Mr Ward had a decent game, although we'd have liked him to have been a bit more commanding in terms of dealing with Barnsley's timewasting tactics that became obvious after Yeovil equalised during the 1-1 draw.
During the 2015-16 season we had him twice - firstly for the match against Exeter City at St James Park. For this opening day fixture, he awarded two penalties - one for each side - and the post-match video showed he'd got both decisions spot on. He also did what more referees should be doing, in our humble opinion - booking Exeter's David Noble after he did his best to cajole the official into booking one of our own players. Later that season, he was there for the March 2016 home match against Notts County, which we won 1-0. We thought that Curtis Thompson was very lucky to stay on the pitch for committing an obvious yellow card tackle on Liam Walsh, but the game was nearly over, and Mr Ward chose to bring over the Magpies captain to explain what would happen if Thompson committed a third foul.
We had Mr Ward once during the 2016-17 season. For that match against Stevenage at Broadhall Way, he had a fairly unobtrusive game, with the only contentious bit being what happened in the 95th minute. He decided to add on a few extra valuable seconds for a ball that had run down the sidelines and took ages to collect for a throw-in. With the final whistle about to blow, Francois Zoko flicked the throw-in into the path of Ben Whitfield, and he lashed it first time into the back of the net. Stevenage weren't too happy about the extra seconds added on, but we definitely were as we got a 2-2 draw out of it.
We've had him twice during the 2017-18 season, and the first was not a pretty one. The scene was Kenilworth Road. The date was August 2017. The end result was Yeovil Town's record Football League defeat, and the first time we'd conceded eight goals in a league fixture for nearly 50 years. We can't blame the referee for this in the slightest - in fact he kindly chalked off a Luton goal for us to stop the scoreline getting even worse. No need to mention the referee. In fact, let's not mention the match any further.
We were due to have him in November 2017 for the League Two home match against Swindon Town. However, at ultra-late notice, he was replaced. Given he had roughly a three week absence from refereeing during that period it's probably safe to say he picked up a minor injury. He'd recovered a month later to do the FA Cup Second Round Replay against Port Vale. He had a rather lively game in the 3-2 win, dismissing Vale's Cristian Montano and James Gibbons - although the visitors complained loudly about both situations, they didn't appeal, and viewing the video replays, we can see why.
Mr Ward will be assisted by Garry Maskell (London) and Dean Treleaven (West Sussex). The Fourth Official will be John Busby (Oxfordshire).
Link: December 2017 : Yeovil Town 3 Port Vale 2.
Link: August 2017 : Luton Town 8 Yeovil Town 2.
Link: November 2016 : Stevenage 2 Yeovil Town 2.
Link: August 2015 : Exeter City 3 Yeovil Town 2.
Link: August 2014 : Yeovil Town 1 Barnsley 1.
Link: September 2013 : Yeovil Town 0 Queens Park Rangers 1.
Link: December 2012 : Yeovil Town 2 Wycombe Wanderers 0.
Link: August 2011 : Yeovil Town 3 Oldham Athletic 1.
Link: March 2011 : Exeter City 2 Yeovil Town 3.
Link: February 2011 : Yeovil Town 0 Peterborough United 2.
Link: January 2010 : Yeovil Town 0 Huddersfield Town 1.
Link: February 2009 : Yeovil Town 2 Oldham Athletic 2.
Link: March 2008 : AFC Bournemouth 2 Yeovil Town 0.
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