Us 0 Northwich Victoria 1

“They know what Steele can do” was the scream from the bloke next to me as though his winner yesterday had resulted from an arching run off the shoulder of the defender, a decoy run from his strike partner, and a deft outside of the boot chip into the net.

In truth, Turley, looked like he was set to skittle over the defensive cluster around the ball – the fans would have loved that – but bottled it allowing it to squidge out to Steele who was having a bit of ‘me’ time in the box. The result skewed what was an otherwise uninspiring game that had 0-0 written all over it. To lose, therefore, was disappointing. However I like Lee Steele, and Northwich Victoria because their fans make a bloody good fist of it in the stands – therefore, I hope it helps them stay up.
It wouldn’t be right to not pass some comment on the referee. I don’t believe any one performance, from referee or player, has a definitive effect on a season, or even a game. As such, refereeing is not about making the right decisions and applying the law – it’s about managing the game for the benefit of the players and supporters.
At no point yesterday was the game in any way feisty or violent. It wouldn’t have had any effect on the result had there been no bookings at all. The referee failed to see this; instead he looked at each incident in isolation – which is why both Foster and Mickey Lewis were sent off.
Good referees will see how games are developing and apply the law accordingly. If things are out of control, every foul is punished, if the game is just a bit turgid with tackles being just a bit mistimed – he’s best letting stuff go, just to see if the game can break free and offer some entertainment.
I do wonder what drives someone to referee at this level. At the top of the game there’s the buzz of being in amongst the big crowds and world superstars, in the parks there’s a sense of community spirit. But in the Conference nobody hears you scream, crowds are big enough to hail abuse but you’re never going to make it into the big time. Then, after the game, nobody cares who you are or where you came from. What kind of person spends a Saturday afternoon, when there’s sex and love and art and shopping and family and many other past-times available, wanting to drive from one end of the country to another to get abused? Someone with an odd sense of self worth, one would assume. Becoming centre of attention, as Mr Webb achieved with his decisions yesterday, is potentially quite a seductive thing.   

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Oxblogger is a blog about Oxford United.

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