Officials for the League Two match between Stevenage and Yeovil Town have been announced by the Football League. The match takes place on Saturday 2nd February 2019, with a 3.00p.m. kick-off at Broadhall Way. The man in charge of the fixture will be referee John Busby (Oxfordshire).
We've had him on five occasions before. Three of those were during the 2016-17 season. The earliest was the August 2016 home match against Morecambe - at the time that was only his third game in charge at Football League level. Prior to his arrival we'd had a series of first year officials for some reason, and there were quite a few that we were less than impressed with. We lost the match 0-1 despite having a large amount of the play. Our recollection was that he wasn't too bad, but the Gazette disagreed saying he "Lacked authority, which infuriated the players and fans alike at times, and got a number of decisions wrong as he looked out of his depth at times" - the game ultimately produced one booking each, so perhaps they felt he was a bit too hands-off.
For the November 2016 EFL Trophy Group Stage game against Reading Under-21s we were probably more glad that he stayed hands-off. A rather red-blooded tackle by Bevis Mugabi just before the break could have got him more than the yellow card he was given. The theory was that the class of the competition and a near-empty stadium probably saved him the walk. That was the referee's only card of the night, so again it was a quiet performance.
He was more lively in the January 2017 match against Crawley Town at the Broadfield Stadium. There he dished out eight bookings - four for each side. The game did get a bit tetchy during the second half, with Francois Zoko and Josh Payne getting carded for some handbags. Manager Darren Way was convinced that Payne should have got more than that:
"It's amazing. It's another decision from the referees that seem to be going against us at the moment. I don't know whether it looks like sometimes it's easier not to give it against us. But they have to reflect upon their own performance. I'm seeing it consistently every week, and it's frustrating. But what can you do about it? He's just quite clearly lashed out at Francois. So that's disappointing."
Way's complaints - and the post-match questions aimed at him - tended to overlook another key decision that had gone in his side's favour. During the second half, Nathan Smith produced a goal line clearance that appeared to have the 'hand of Maradona' involved in it. Crawley appealed loudly, and we were slightly amazed (but thankful) that Mr Busby gave nothing, as it would have led to a red card and a penalty.
The 2017-18 season saw Mr Busby involved in one Yeovil Town match. That was the EFL Trophy Third Round game against Forest Green Rovers that saw us win 2-0. Such ties tend to be a little bit on the sleepy side in terms of controversial incidents and this one was definitely the case, with two early goals contributing to a half-paced second period where Rovers seemed to have more-or-less conceded the tie, and where officials didn't need to intervene.
The most recent meeting involving Mr Busby came earlier this season, in the August 2018 home match against Oldham Athletic. There he dished out just one card, to former Glover Ishmael Miller, and the striker was given a 'last warning' during the final minute of that first half due to another foul. Oldham substituted him at the break to protect him, but Darren Way complained after the match that they shouldn't have been given that opportunity, stating that Miller should have been sent off. The second half was a bit niggly, maybe because of that, but the match referee stayed hands-off.
In terms of his overall career, at the tail end of the 2014-15 season he was given two prestige cup final appearances - he was the Fourth Official for the FA Youth Cup final between Chelsea and Manchester City in the second leg at Stamford Bridge. He was also chosen as the main referee for the Nike Trophy Final at Wembley Stadium, between Arsenal U14s and Reading U14s. He has also taken charge of the Oxfordshire FA Senior Cup Final and a FA Vase Semi-Final. He's been heavily fast-tracked - he was only promoted to Conference National level during the summer of 2015, having started refereeing in the year 2000.
Mr Busby will be assisted by Paul Yates (Kent) and Declan Ford (Lincolnshire). The Fourth Official will be Adrian Tranter (Dorset).
Link: August 2016 : Yeovil Town 0 Morecambe 1.
Link: November 2016 : Reading Under-21s 0 Yeovil Town 2.
Link: January 2017 : Crawley Town 2 Yeovil Town 0.
Link: January 2018 : Yeovil Town 2 Forest Green Rovers 0.
Link: August 2018 : Yeovil Town 0 Oldham Athletic 0.
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