Officials for the EFL Trophy Group Stage match between Yeovil Town and West Ham United Under-21s have been published by the Football League. The match is the final game of the Group Stages and takes place on Tuesday 6th November 2018, with a 7.45p.m. kick-off at Huish Park. The man in charge of the fixture will be referee Brett Huxtable (Devon).
This is the fifth time that Mr Huxtable has been the main referee for a Glovers fixture. As a Devon man, he has been a frequent visitor to Huish Park as one of the allocated assistant referees or Fourth Officials. However, it was only over the summer of 2016 that he was promoted to the Football League's referees list.
He is aged 34 years old and hails from Torrington, and is a self-employed builder. He is a Manchester United fan - of course he would be, living in Devon! He has been progressing through the North Devon League, Western League Premier, Southern League Premier, Conference South and National divisions and got as far as the latter level in the summer of 2012, and so did four years at that level.
We had him twice during the 2016-17 season. The first was for the November 2016 home match against Colchester United - an ultra-late comeback saw us come from 1-0 down to win the game by a 2-1 scoreline. He was a bit busy with the yellow cards, booking either seven or eight players on the night (there's a bit of a quibble over one of the Colchester ones). That said, we can't see too much about his performance to argue with - the Western Gazette criticised him for allowing us to take an offside free kick to be taken in the opponent's half, but our suspicion is that he got that one right, because of a summer rule change.
He then turned up for the February 2017 match against Cambridge United. This was a frustrating night, with a 1-1 draw continuing a pattern the Glovers had at the time of taking the lead in games, and then suffering a late equaliser. Here the match official didn't seem to have much influence on that, with a more moderate three bookings and nothing particularly contentious.
His 2017-18 meeting came during November 2017, when he turned up for the EFL Trophy tie against Plymouth Argyle. We can't get too irate about such fixtures, but the general view of the few who attended the game was that he should have dished out a red card to Ryan Edwards for a professional foul after he pulled back Francois Zoko inside the box. No decision given on either factor - thankfully we won the match 2-1 in the end.
We then come on to the January 2018 New Year's Day match against Crawley Town. This match saw Mr Huxtable handing out a lot of late Christmas cards - five for Crawley players in the opening 38 minutes, including two for dissent. The snag was that Connor Smith committed two yellow card tackles during that period, and once you've started dishing out cards at that rate, then anything done by the other side isn't going to get leniency. Off went Smith, and by half time Omar Sowunmi also was dismissed for clipping the heels of Jordan Roberts. Yeovil subsequently appealed against Sowunmi's sending off, but lost that appeal - our view from the video was that it was inconclusive, which was never going to be good enough for an appeal. The body language of both players did tend to imply there had been some contact, so no real complaints.
It did however leave Yeovil Town down to nine men for the whole of the second half. Crawley had already equalised between the Smith and Sowunmi red cards, and so had a two man advantage during that period. It looked as though Yeovil might hang on, until someone outside the stadium decided to fly a drone - presumably a Christmas present - over the stadium. In line with guidance given by the Football Association, Mr Huxtable suspended the game for eleven minutes. That should have benefited Yeovil's tiring legs, in slowing the game down, but it was Crawley that returned with the upper hand and they scored the winning goal in the 87th minute (or the 98th minute if you left your stopwatch running when the game was suspended).
After the game - and perhaps predictably - Darren Way and the Western Gazette sought to blame the referee for what had unfolded. The Gazette went as far as to suggest that Huxtable's "dreadful performance cost Yeovil Town victory", calling it "one of the most inept refereeing performances seen at a Yeovil Town match". That is questionable, given that Crawley were drawing the match with Connor Smith off the field, and that ultimately the Glovers failed in their Sowunmi appeal. Way suggested the official should have made more allowance for the pitch conditions when he produced those cards and accused Crawley of diving:
"I don't think he had to send both players off. I think that every now and again, certainly with the pitches being the way they are, there has to be a certain understanding as to where the ball bounces, or skipped a tackle - as far as you think they're a tackle, but have they made contact? There were one or two times where Crawley were caught in a position where they were diving. I don't like saying that, but overall it was very disappointing with the decision-making from the referee."
Mr Huxtable will be assisted by Kevin Morris (Herefordshire) and Steven Plane (Worcestershire). The Fourth Official will be Ronald Ganfield (Somerset).
Link: January 2018 : Yeovil Town 1 Crawley Town 2.
Link: November 2017 : Yeovil Town 2 Plymouth Argyle 1.
Link: February 2017 : Yeovil Town 1 Cambridge United 1.
Link: November 2016 : Yeovil Town 2 Colchester United 1.
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