EXPERIENCED referee Keith Stroud will take charge of the east Lancashire derby between Blackburn Rovers and Burnley at Ewood Park this weekend.
The 46-year-old, from Hampshire, has been assigned to the televised Saturday lunchtime kick-off in the SkyBet Championship between the two rivals separated by a mere 12 miles (KO 12:30pm, live on Sky Sports).
He will be assisted by linesmen Glen Hart (County Durham) and Shaun Hudson (Tyne & Wear) while the fourth official will be Jeremy Simpson (Lancashire).
Stroud was the butt of the jokes last weekend after being bulldozed by Hull’s Chuba Akpom in their 1-1 draw with Sheffield Wednesday which forced the official to hobble off injured late on at Hillsborough and be replaced by fourth official Darren Handley.
He is expected to make a recovery in time to officiate Tuesday night’s key League Two fixture between third-top Oxford United and leaders Plymouth Argyle.
Stroud has brandished 43 yellow cards and awarded three penalties in 11 matches in all competitions so far this term – with his only red card shown to Bristol City’s Luke Freeman in their 4-2 home defeat by Brentford in August.
The former Premier League whistler has received two top-flight trial games in the last 12 months – both involving Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park against Leicester and Aston Villa respectively.
He was widely praised for a high-quality display in their 2-1 win over Villa in August in which he disallowed a James McArthur goal for offside after consulting linesman Peter Kirkup.
Afterwards, former PGMOL chief Keith Hackett urged that Stroud be selected for more Premier League games and hailed his decision-making and movement around the field.
The boyhood Luton Town supporter has also overseen a number of top-flight clubs in the Capital One Cup in the last two years including West Bromwich Albion and Southampton in this season’s competition.
Regularly considered for key matches across the three divisions due to his unrivalled knowledge and excellent fitness, Stroud took charge of 18 Championship games in 2014-15.
His efforts throughout the season were duly rewarded when handed the responsibility of a fourth play-off semi-final as Stevenage drew 1-1 with Southend in the first leg of their League Two tie.
Stroud last encountered Blackburn in a 2-1 FA Cup win at Charlton back in January while his previous Burnley game was their 2-0 victory over Wigan in April 2014 which clinched the Clarets’ promotion to the Premier League.
He is one of the most experienced in the Football League and has been in the middle twice at Wembley – for the 2004 Conference Play-Off Final between Aldershot and Shrewsbury and the 2013 League Two final as Bradford beat Northampton 3-0.
Stroud could be involved in the middle at the national stadium for a third time this term with the Kent-based official among the leading contenders for the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final.
The Hampshire FA Referee Developing Manager first took up the whistle in 1988 and progressed through the ranks to become a Select Group assistant referee in 2002 when he was appointed as a linesman to the 2003 FA Cup Final.
He became a National List referee in 2004 with his first Football League game being Scunthorpe’s 2-0 win at Cheltenham in League Two before impressing in a trial Premier League match between Middlesbrough and Manchester City in 2007.
Stroud, who belongs to Hampshire FA, was promoted to the top-flight at the start of the 2007-08 campaign but demoted back to the National List in May 2009 after just two seasons as a full-time official.
Following his debut in February 2006 when Blackburn welcomed Sunderland to Ewood Park, he oversaw a further 13 matches before being deemed to have fallen below the required standards of officiating and was dropped along with fellow referee Steve Tanner.
Burnley were also involved in a Lancashire derby last weekend against Bolton Wanderers at Turf Moor – in which newly-promoted Select Group official Graham Scott refereed his first game of the season as Andre Gray’s double gave the Clarets a 2-0 win.
Rovers’ goalless draw with Bolton at Ewood Park in August was surprisingly officiated by Paul Tierney from Lancashire, who sent off Wanderers defender Dorian Dervite late on for two yellow cards and was criticised by boss Neil Lennon for an ‘inconsistent’ and ‘appalling’ display.
Sean Dyche’s Clarets currently sit in the play-off places while Blackburn – under boss Gary Bowyer – are in the middle of the table.