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Behind the Whistle: The weekend's key match decisions

17 January 2023

A full schedule of EFL action resumed at the weekend, and on-hand to go through a selection of key match decisions from the action in the Sky Bet Championship, Sky Bet League One and Sky Bet League Two is former EFL and Premier League referee Chris Foy.

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 Championship

Sunderland AFC 1-3 Swansea City

Incident: Potential red card offence (Sunderland)

Decision: Red card awarded

Player safety is paramount when officiating, and as such I think this one is a straightforward decision – the tackle was late and made with excessive force, leaving the referee with no option but to show him a red card for serious foul play.

I think it is also worth mentioning the two penalty appeals in this fixture, both of which I believe did not meet the threshold for penalising. Whilst there was more contact in the first challenge, I do not believe either should have resulted in a penalty being awarded.


Incident at 1minute 10seconds


Reading 2-2 QPR

Incident: Penalty appeal (Reading)

Decision: No penalty awarded

This is similar to the Sunderland v Swansea City fixture, where I don’t feel it met the required threshold for a penalty to be given.

The motivations of the attacker as well as the actions of the defender are considered when making a decision to award a penalty or not. In this instance, the contact is attributable to the actions of both players and play on is considered the best outcome.


Sheffield United 3-1 Stoke City

Incident: Potential red card for DOGSO (Denial of an Obvious Goal Scoring Opportunity) (Sheffield United)

Decision: Free kick and yellow card awarded

In the closing stages, a yellow card is shown by the referee. In this situation the referee has had to consider whether the foul is a DOGSO. A DOGSO situation outside of the penalty area would always result in a red card.

The referee has to take into consideration: 

  • Distance between foul and the goal
  • Direction of play
  • Likelihood of attacker gaining possession/control of ball
  • Location and number of defenders

In real-time the referee considered that the distance from goal and the direction of play provided sufficient mitigation, concluding that the attacker was going a little wide with the ball with lots of distance still to cover, as another defender chased back.

However, I think, with the benefit of review, the better outcome on this occasion would have been a red card.


Sky Bet League One

Accrington Stanley 2-0 Bristol Rovers

Incident: Goal scored by Accrington Stanley – potential handball in build-up

Decision: Goal awarded

As the ball is played into Accrington Stanley #18, his initial touch is with his right foot, following which the ball bounces up and touches his hand - this is considered to be an accidental handball. 

Accrington Stanley #8 then takes control of the ball and scores the opening goal of the game. Had Accrington Stanley #18 scored immediately following their accidental handball then the Laws of the Game would require the referee to disallow the goal, however, as a teammate scores the goal, the referee was correct to allow the goal to stand.

A deliberate handball offence by Accrington Stanley #18 would be penalised by the referee irrespective of which player scores the goal.

Incident from 50seconds 


Cheltenham Town 2-3 Derby County

Incident: Goal scored by Derby County – potential offside

Decision: No goal awarded – Offside.

On this particular decision, as the ball was played forward to the Derby County #18, he was correctly adjudged to have just strayed ahead of the 2nd rear most Cheltenham Town defender and, therefore, the goal was correctly disallowed for offside.


Sky Bet League Two

Swindon Town 5-0 Grimsby Town

Incident: Penalty red card (Grimsby Town)

Decision: Red card awarded – DOGSO (Denial of an Obvious Goal Scoring Opportunity)

You often hear of substitutions taking place and the importance of getting up to the speed of the game, and that is equally as important for a referee – even though these happen a lot less frequently.

Having replaced the referee after 13 minutes, the replacement – having changed roles from 4th official to referee, the match official was faced with a game-changing decision after 34 minutes when he correctly judged that Grimsby #22 denied the Swindon Town #24 a goalscoring opportunity by fouling him just outside the penalty area.

Had the foul occurred inside the 18-yard box a penalty kick and yellow card would have been issued; when a genuine attempt to play the ball leads to a foul that denies an obvious goalscoring opportunity he need to show a red card is removed and replaced by a yellow card. However, as this foul happened outside the box a red card was the correct course of action.


Leyton Orient 0-0 Barrow

Incident: Potential red card (second yellow)

Decision: Second yellow card awarded

In added time the Leyton Orient #2 is cautioned for stopping a promising attack by committing a handball offence. 

Then just three minutes later the same player commits a foul which once again clearly stops a promising attack for the opposing team, leaving the referee with no option but to dismiss the player for a second caution.

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