BROWNE ON THE BALL: Credit where it’s due, the man in black was spot on

Referee Martin Woods.
Referee Martin Woods.

Trying to pick a man of the match at a Boston United game is no mean feat these days.

Those poor match-day sponsors who arrive at the Jakemans Stadium thinking they’re in for a fun day out are asked to end their afternoon by making a decision tougher than trying to name your favourite member of Bros.

Craig Elliott has swiftly assembled a squad of battlers, grafters and talents which complement one another superbly.

Saturday’s victory over a splendid Blyth Spartans side was a perfect example, where pretty much anyone in amber and black could have been awarded the bottle of champers and nobody would have complained.

Attempting to name a stand-out performer from that mob was tough enough, and would have been even tougher had some of the talented Spartan players also been in with a shout.

But for me there was one performance which was about as close to perfect as could be... referee Martin Woods.

The Pilgrims have had some stinking decisions go against them this season.

Leigh Doughty settling the contest at FC United within 10 minutes after giving a penalty against Brad McGowan for being kicked in the leg by an attacker who was behind him was comically shocking.

Add in Declan Bourne booking Reece Thompson for taking a forearm in the face from Kidderminster keeper Brandon Hall and Sam Mulhall allowing Stockport to score a 97th-minute equaliser after adding on time for a substitution which occurred before the board was held up and you’d be forgiven for thinking someone bought Frank Spencer a whistle.

In football it’s easy to dwell on the negatives and forget to dish out deserved praise.

But Woods handled the match superbly.

He brought play back when Jay Rollins’ swipe took the momentum out a Blyth attack, let the game flow, cut out the niggling challenges and gave players the benefit of the doubt until they forced their name into his book (yes, you Brad Abbott).

And then there were the two spot kicks.

Woods - who gave United a first-minute penalty at Alfreton when many others wouldn’t have dared get the home fans on their back so early - pointed to the spot when Dan Maguire went down after seeing a run charged down by Jon Stewart.

But after discussing the incident with assistant Dave Jones he reversed his decision.

He had the courage of his convictions to make a decision, and the courage of his convictions to reverse it after listening to a second opinion which came from a better vantage point.

Too many officials save face and then offer flimsy excuses to managers and club secretaries when the dust has settled, which sadly makes Woods’ decision refreshingly delightful, rather than the norm.

And then there was the second penalty, the one he awarded to Boston after Nathan Buddle had taken a swipe at Thompson.

Again, many officials thinking about their previous actions would have given a shake of a head in an attempt to even things up.

But any referee worth their salt knows it’s better to judge each situation on its own merits, rather than risk making two big errors to keep things equal.

And that’s why, when it came to penalty decisions, Martin Woods was spot on.