KEITH Stroud will take charge of the east Midlands derby between Derby County and Nottingham Forest this weekend.
The 46-year-old, from Hampshire, will be in the middle at the iPro Stadium for the televised Saturday lunchtime game (KO 12:30 GMT, live on Sky Sports).
He will be assisted by Jonathan Hunt (Merseyside) and Peter Wright (Lancashire), while the fourth official is Andy Madley (West Yorkshire) – who was the referee for last season’s corresponding fixture when Forest came from behind to win 2-1.
It will be the first time that Stroud has been appointed to a match in any competition between the two fierce rivals, separated by a mere 15 miles along the A52.
Although Simon Hooper did not have many flashpoints to deal with as Forest won 1-0 at the City Ground in November, they are usually incident-packed occasions with four red cards dished out in the last eight meetings.
But, with a wealth of experience to draw upon, Stroud should be the ideal man to keep a lid on matters having handled many high-profile fixtures in his career to date – including the east Lancashire derby at Ewood Park back in October.
The Dorset-based official has overseen 36 games in all competitions so far this season – brandishing 155 yellow cards, sending off 11 players and awarding eight penalties.
Stroud was in control of Forest’s televised games at Brighton on the opening weekend and Wolves in December, while he has only encountered Derby once in 2015-16 – in their 1-0 home win over QPR at the start of November.
It will be the eighth successive Championship game that the Bournemouth-born referee is involved in, with his last game in the middle coming last Saturday in Leeds United’s 2-1 win at Blackburn.
Boyhood Luton Town supporter Stroud, who belongs to Hampshire FA, has been a consistent performer on the National List since his demotion in May 2009.
He once sent off three players and awarded four penalties in an eventful 2-2 draw between Sheffield United and Brentford at Bramall Lane in League One.
The former Premier League whistler has officiated two top-flight games this season, with a view to being re-promoted to the Select Group list next season.
He was in control of Crystal Palace’s 2-1 win over Aston Villa in August, correctly disallowing a Palace goal for offside after Dwight Gayle’s shot deflected in off James McArthur following discussions with assistant referee 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.
Stroud also sent off West Ham defender James Collins with six minutes remaining for a crude challenge on two-goal Odion Ighalo in their 2-0 defeat at Watford in October.
Forest are chasing a third successive win over their neighbours Derby, who have only won two of the last five meetings at the iPro.
Both sides will have rookie managers at the helm for the 98th competitive east Midlands derby – with Derby head coach Darren Wassall and Forest’s Paul Williams, who replaced the sacked Dougie Freedman last weekend – experiencing the derby from the dugouts for the first time.
The two clubs have made the news this week, as Derby hope to bring in Harry Redknapp in an advisory role while Forest owner Fawaz Al Hawasi announced he would be prepared to sell the club for the right price.
As ever, up for grabs will be the famous Brian Clough Trophy – awarded to the winners of each derby, in memory of the legendary manager who represented both sides of the divide.