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Behind the Whistle: Analysis of the weekend's big decisions

9 January 2023

Whilst there was a reduced schedule this weekend across the EFL with many Clubs participating in the FA Cup Third Round, former EFL and Premier League referee Chris Foy is on-hand once again to go through a selection of key match decisions from the action in Sky Bet League One and League Two.

Although many decisions made on the field of play are of a subjective nature, ‘Behind the Whistle’ will give supporters of EFL clubs an insight into the decision-making considerations and also clarification of certain decisions to provide an understanding of how the Laws of the Game are interpreted.

A regular feature on following the conclusion of a matchday, Foy will be here to run you through some refereeing matters in the EFL. 

Sky Bet League One

Cambridge United 1-2 Bristol Rovers

Incident: Penalty appeal (potential handball)

Decision: No penalty awarded

I would say that whilst the attempt by the Bristol Rovers defender to stoop low and head the ball clear is unorthodox, the ball deflects off his head and onto his arm from close range so the referee was correct in not awarding a penalty.

This has been a consistent approach adopted across the game based on current guidance on handball offences.


Bolton Wanderers 0-0 Plymouth Argyle

Incident: Potential red card offence (second yellow)

Decision: Red card given (second yellow)

I don’t think there can be many arguments with this particular decision. Having already received a caution for a reckless tackle earlier in the game, the official had little option but to show a second caution for another tackle that was reckless.

Sky Bet League Two

Harrogate Town 1-3 Colchester United

Incident: Potential red card offence

Decision: Yellow card given

When there is a loose ball which is equal distance between players the referee needs to be fully aware of how players challenge for the ball and position themselves accordingly.

On this occasion the referee didn’t accurately identify that Harrogate’s #7 is airborne, not in full control and lunges at the Colchester player, making late and heavy contact. The challenge had excessive force and with the player’s safety in mind, a red card should have been issued in my opinion.


Mansfield Town 2-3 AFC Barrow

Incident: Goal scored by AFC Barrow – potential offside

Decision: Goal given

It’s certainly not an easy job to run the line, and this is a good example of the fine margins.

As Barrow’s #21 squares the ball the Assistant Referee has to judge the exact moment the ball is played and the position of the second rear most defender (Mansfield Town #14) compared to Barrow #10, the goal scorer. 

On freeze faming the footage, the AR appears to have judged the passage of play accurately.

Goal Awarded (Close Offside) - Mansfield Town v Barrow (49 min).png

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