Alan Devonshire: 'It's a big club syndrome'

Maidenhead United manager Alan Devonshire has once again shone the spotlight on the standard of refereeing in the National League, saying he’s felt a ‘leniency’ to the opposition in the past two matches.

United ran out 4-2 winners at Hartlepool United on Saturday, but only after Ryheem Sheckleford was harshly red carded in the first half at Victoria Park. Then, in a tempestuous encounter at York Road on Tuesday evening, Devonshire was forced to spend the second half of his side’s 4-0 defeat to Notts County in the dressing room having been sent off for a verbal altercation with the referee James Durkin.

It followed several incidents where Devonshire felt County were given favourable decisions with the tipping point arriving shortly before half-time when Josh Coley was given a yellow card, when he felt similar or worse fouls from the visitors had gone unpunished.

United’s goalkeeper Rhys Lovett was also struggling with a chest injury by that stage having taken a couple of whacks to his ribcage in aerial challenges. He was substituted early in the second half and taken to hospital where scans revealed only bruising rather than anything more serious.

With midfielder James Comley taking on the gloves for more than 40 minutes it was no surprise to see United go down to defeat, with James O’Brien completing a hat-trick for the visitors.

Devonshire said: “I can’t really remember what happened. He (the referee) just said ‘don’t come out for the second half. I called him an expletive after that, but I didn’t call him an expletive before I got sent off so it will be interesting to see what he puts down in his report.

“We had a bad referee on Saturday against Hartlepool, when Ryheem (Sheckleford) was sent off when he should never have been, and we had a few other bookings. So, we had it on Saturday, but we won the game. It’s like the big club syndrome. We’re all in the same league and we should all get the same treatment but sometimes it doesn’t feel like it works that way.”

He added: “It’s not good enough. Our goalkeeper Rhys was taken to hospital last night. In the first minute their 20 (Rodrigues) fouls him, and it was a bad foul. If the ref books him then, and he’s led with his arm into the keeper when he’s already caught the ball, then the kid wouldn’t have been smashed again later on and ended up having to go to hospital. If the referee had done his job properly in the first minute, the kid wouldn’t have got the injury. “He played on for a while, but he was in a bad state.

“After that there were six or seven fouls from their players, and at least a couple of them were bookable offences.

“Josh Coley then makes a tackle before half-time and there’s nothing in it really, but he’s booked him, after seven or eight of their players had done tackles just as bad or worse.”

The United boss added that it feels like there’s a discrepancy between the decisions given to the big clubs and those received by the small clubs, calling it a ‘big club syndrome’. While he admits he doesn’t always feel that the big clubs get favourable decisions, he’s keen for the league and its assessors to take steps to address the generally poor standard of officiating across the division.

“It just ain’t good enough,” he said.

“I’m sorry, but Alan Massey was booked for complaining, when earlier in the game their captain had come flying up the field 20 or 30 yards to get in the face of the referee. He didn’t get booked, but Massey did.

“We’re all in the same league and all I want is for us all clubs to be treated the same. At times. Not all the time. But at times it feels that way. The refereeing in the last two games hasn’t been good enough, but I’ve also felt a leniency towards the other team in both games. I’d like to think I’m quite fair and, even when we’ve won, I’ve said when the refereeing hasn’t been good enough. It’s a hard job, I get that, but there are assessors there.

“What are they doing to ensure that things improve?”

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