Ashton Gate does not only hold recent fond memories for Reading (we’ve won on four of our last five visits), but for today’s referee too, as Stephen Martin took charge of his first ever Championship game at the stadium back in 2013.
That was his inaugural season in the Football League, meaning that this is his fourth term as a National Group referee. His father would be proud. But probably more than most dads, because Stephen’s father Andy used to be a whistle-blower too, officiating Premier League games back in the 1990s. Now that’s a first for Ref-Watch!
Stephen may not have reached the same heights yet, but did the next best thing when he took charge of top flight side Watford’s Capital One Cup trip to Preston last month.
The Staffordshire official has been the man in the middle on seven occasions so far in 2015-16, and has shown 19 yellow cards and one red, which went to Miguel Britos in the aforementioned League Cup tie at Deepdale. Martin has also given one penalty this season, back on the opening day when Swindon beat Bradford 4-1 in League One. The spot-kick was missed by Bantams player Billy Clarke.
One player who does know how to score a penalty is Pavel Pogrebnyak, and he did just that in Martin’s only previous game in charge of Reading against Barnsley in March last year. Unfortunately, the Royals went on to lose 3-1 that day, denting our play-off hopes.
It’s way too early to start talking about similar scenarios this campaign, but taking three points back down the M4 this afternoon would be another step in the right direction and keep optimism high amongst our inter-changeable fan base.