You’re Not Fit To Referee – Hendon (A)

So far this season, I’ve written five in-depth thoughts about games I’ve attended – tactical observations, opinions on the opposition, descriptions of key moments in the game for those who weren’t there, and so on. For Saturday’s game against Hendon, there’s no point. The game can be summed up very quickly: on a dire pitch – not Hendon’s fault, to be fair – this was a dire game decided by a goal scored as a result of a dire defensive mistake. Rob Tolfrey made a notable save during the second half, and Andre McCollin deserves a mention for his work rate and perseverance up front. That’s all I have to say.

The view during the first half. The quality of the game can be summed up by knowing that one Hendon free-kick (which took at least 3 minutes to take) ended up two-thirds of the way up the fir tree in the picture

The view during the first half. The quality of the game can be summed up by knowing that one Hendon free-kick (which took at least 3 minutes to take) ended up two-thirds of the way up the largest tree in the picture

The reason that’s all I have to say is that the game itself – the match involving 22 players kicking a ball around the pitch in an effort to score goals, and therefore win the game – was completely irrelevant. The referee made absolutely sure that he was the only show in town, the only man on the pitch worth watching, and the chief contributor to the afternoon’s ‘entertainment’.

This ‘entertainment’, for which most of the crowd had paid the not insignificant sum of £10 to watch, consisted of the man in black blowing his whistle at entirely random events about every thirty seconds the ball was in play. There would then be a delay of two to three minutes while the referee pottered about the pitch, often booking the nearest Kingstonian player for ‘dissent’ (when in fact they were simply asking him to hurry up play), arranging the players to his satisfaction, telling the free kick taker to move the ball, talking to more players, and then allowing play to continue. For another thirty seconds. Repeat for ninety minutes.

This man should never referee another football game again. He is an enemy of entertainment, a thief of joy, a pathetic attention-seeking nobody who referees purely so that the crowd is looking at him. He did not simply have ‘a bad game’. Referees make mistakes – at our level, they make dreadful mistakes – but these are human errors, borne out of a poor decision made almost instantaneously. The better referees will make fewer of these errors of judgement, of course, but such mistakes are forgivable. This referee did not just make mistakes, however – his entire style of refereeing was designed to stop a game of football being played, presumably because he cannot handle a flowing game of football, being incapable of getting anything right at the slow pace of this game, let alone in a full-blooded affair. In other words, the only possible explanation for a such a bizarre display of officiating is that he ruined the game deliberately.

This rant has nothing to do with the referee favouring Hendon over Kingstonian on the day. In fact, he missed the two worst tackles of the game, both deserving of bookings at the very least, both perpetrated by Kingstonian players. There’s not even any point going into the specifics of the litany of appalling individual decisions he made, the worst of which was to send off Wade Small for jumping for the ball. The only reason he appeared to favour one team over the other was that the senior Hendon players figured him out straight away, became his on pitch ‘friends’, and refereed the game on his behalf; the Kingstonian players, on the other hand, naively went about their business for the first half an hour rather than getting in the official’s ear, and therefore bore the brunt of the decisions. On another day, it could have been Hendon who had a man sent off and several players booked.

But what is certain is this: he will ruin every single game he referees.

A final note. As if the referee’s determination to render the spectators’ afternoon futile was not enough, the Hendon team embarked on one of the most extraordinary – and depressing – episodes of timewasting I’ve seen during a football game. 1-0 up and playing against ten men, Hendon tried every single trick in the book: three minute substitutions, deliberate fake throws, s-l-o-w goal kicks, waiting a minute to take every single set piece, ‘running out’ of footballs on the bench, feigning injury, and probably more I didn’t even notice. Their senior players also insisted that the referee send off Wade Small, assisted by ludicrous play-acting from the Hendon keeper, who ought to be ashamed of his antics. This sort of conduct is to be expected in the Premier League, but at non-league level, where most of the players turn out for the love of the game, it is disgraceful – and has certainly soiled my opinion of Hendon as a club, who have built a reputation for fair play over many seasons. Again, this is not one-eyed ranting; I would be ashamed if Kingstonian ever resort to such tactics.

What a dreadful afternoon for non-league football. Is it any wonder gates are down when we subject loyal fans of non-league to 90 minutes, in freezing conditions, of the worst entertainment possible? Why should the eleven, then ten players, in red-and-white hoops by the only ones even vaguely trying to provide a spectacle for the paying punters?

I can only hope for a rip-roaring goal-fest against Lowestoft to get that out of the system. If you weren’t there on Saturday, be thankful.

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Are We A Second Half Team?

After ten games, when I last complied this table, it was perhaps too early to tell – although that didn’t stop me putting the graph together anyway. But after 20 games (as many as 23 for some), the evidence is starting to build: is your team a ‘second half side’? As a fan, can you look forward to rip-roaring comebacks, or is your team more likely to grab defeat from the jaws of victory? The table below shows how many points each team has won or lost after half-time so far this season: (Please click on the ‘fullscreen’ icon in the bottom right-hand corner for a better look)

So the picture is not quite as obvious as it seems from the half-time league table alone, which is in part down to the disparity in games played – Lewes and Carshalton have played 23, and Met Police, Thurrock and Lowestoft only 17, for instance. What is certain, however, is that Whitehawk owe much of their success so far this season to their second half performances, having gained a remarkable 12 points after the break. Margate have also tended to finish games strongly. Perhaps it’s not surprise that they’re the top two in the ‘real’ table…

PS The eagle-eyed will notice the numbers don’t balance: there’s a lot more points won than lost after half-time. That’s simply because so many games are tied at the break, and therefore it’s common for one team to gain two points – and for their opponents to only lose one point – during a second half.

The Half-Time Table, halfway

It’s time to revisit the Half-Time League Table, now that we’re about halfway through the season. Just like last time, I’ve again compiled all the half-time scores in Ryman Premier League games and created a league table based on the scoreline at that point. So, without further ado, feast your eyes on the Halfway Half-Time League Table below. There are some things which leap out straight away:

  • Kingstonian stay top of the league! However, that doesn’t necessarily mean we’re a “first half team”…
  • And at the other end of the table, Wingate & Finchley remain bottom. Will both K’s and Wingate end the season at either end of the table?
  • Top of the ‘real’ table Whitehawk only manage a play-off place, having conceded a pretty generous 15 first half goals – although they are the top scorers with 21 strikes before the half-time whistle.
  • Just like after ten games, Cray are much higher in this half-time table than in the real one, largely because they fly out of the blocks away from home. Take note if you’re hosting Cray any time soon, Ryman League managers…
  • The hardest team to get off to a flyer against? Bognor, who’ve been trailing just twice at the break so far this season, having conceded a miserly 7 goals in 20 first periods. Impressive.
  • Out of the remaining promotion contenders, it’s worth mentioning just how bad Wealdstone have been away from home in the first half, with only two goals scored in 8 games. The Stones will need to start faster on the road if they want promotion this season.
  • Other teams struggling away from home comforts are Hendon, Hastings and Thurrock, none of whom have managed to lead an away game at half time so far. In Hendon’s case, they haven’t even managed to score a goal. Thurrock have led after the first 45 in a remarkable 7 of their 9 home games, but in not a single one of their 8 away games.
  • But the most Jekyll and Hyde record of all belongs to Concord: there have been 26 goals scored in their home first halves, but a mere 8 in their away games. Do they go all-out attack at home and park the bus away? And if so, why? Bizarre.
Pos Team P W D L F A P W D L F A P W D L F A Pts GD
1 Kingstonian 10 5 4 1 11 6 9 4 2 3 9 10 19 9 6 4 20 16 33 4
2 Hampton 9 4 3 2 8 6 11 4 5 2 8 4 20 8 8 4 16 10 32 6
3 Cray 10 2 4 4 3 7 11 6 3 2 11 8 21 8 7 6 14 15 31 -1
4 Whitehawk 10 4 5 1 13 7 11 3 5 3 8 8 21 7 10 4 21 15 31 6
5 Bognor 11 3 7 1 5 3 9 3 5 1 7 4 20 6 12 2 12 7 30 5
6 Canvey 10 3 5 2 10 7 10 4 3 3 6 6 20 7 8 5 16 13 29 3
7 Wealdstone 11 6 3 2 12 8 8 1 4 3 2 3 19 7 7 5 14 11 28 3
8 Concord 11 5 2 4 13 13 9 2 5 2 4 4 20 7 7 6 17 17 28 0
9 Lewes 12 4 6 2 8 6 11 2 4 5 9 11 23 6 10 7 17 17 28 0
10 Harrow 11 3 6 2 9 5 10 2 6 2 3 4 21 5 12 4 12 9 27 3
11 Bury Town 9 3 3 3 4 6 10 4 2 4 6 5 19 7 5 7 10 11 26 -1
12 Margate 10 3 4 3 4 3 10 3 4 3 8 7 20 6 8 6 12 10 26 2
13 Lowestoft 8 4 1 3 9 4 9 3 4 2 6 5 17 7 5 5 15 9 26 6
14 ETU 10 4 2 4 6 5 9 3 3 3 5 4 19 7 5 7 11 9 26 2
15 Thurrock 9 7 1 1 11 2 8 0 4 4 3 9 17 7 5 5 14 11 26 3
16 Leiston 11 3 6 2 6 5 10 2 2 6 5 12 21 5 8 8 11 17 23 -6
17 Enfield T 10 4 3 3 7 8 11 1 4 6 7 16 21 5 7 9 14 24 22 -10
18 Hastings 9 4 5 0 8 4 9 0 5 4 2 8 18 4 10 4 10 12 22 -2
19 Hendon 9 3 4 2 8 6 11 0 7 4 0 5 20 3 11 6 8 11 20 -3
20 Met Police 7 1 3 3 5 6 10 2 6 2 1 1 17 3 9 5 6 7 18 -1
21 Carshalton 11 0 7 4 4 9 12 2 4 6 7 13 23 2 11 10 11 22 17 -11
22 Wingate 11 0 8 3 1 4 11 1 5 5 6 11 22 1 13 8 7 15 16 -8