JOHN Beaton will be the referee for this weekend’s standout Scottish Premiership clash between Aberdeen and Rangers.
The 34-year-old will be in the middle when the two sides expected to challenge Celtic for the title this term meet at Pittodrie this Sunday lunchtime (KO 13:00 BST, live on Sky Sports).
He will be assisted by Dougie Potter and Andrew McWilliam, while Don Robertson, who took charge of Celtic’s 2-2 draw at Inverness last Sunday and Rangers’ 5-0 Betfred Cup win over Queen of the South on Tuesday, will be the fourth official.
Beaton will be hoping for a less eventful match than the incident-packed match he oversaw at McDiarmid Park last weekend, as St Johnstone beat Hearts 1-0.
He booked Saints strikers Chris Kane and Graham Cummins for diving and sent Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson to the stands for an apparent sarcastic clap towards him after 76 minutes.
However Neilson, who has since avoided a touchline ban, said afterwards he felt the dismissal was more influenced by fourth official Mike Roncone, as opposed to the referee.
Beaton will be in the middle for his 11th game of the season in all competitions – and third to be shown live on TV. He has so far brandished 53 yellow cards, two red cards and awarded eight penalties.
Earlier this month, Beaton gave three penalties in 45 minutes to Dunfermline, all of which were saved by goalkeeper Cammy Bell in 10-man Dundee United’s 3-1 win at East End Park in the Championship.
Last month, he dished out a massive 11 yellow cards and awarded Hearts a controversial spotkick when Jamie Walker appeared to dive over Kieran Tierney in their 2-1 defeat by champions Celtic at Tynecastle on the opening weekend of the Premiership season.
The Motherwell official, who first became a referee in 1997, has officiated the 2015 Ramsdens Cup Final, two League Cup semi-finals, two Scottish Cup semis including one last season, and been an additional assistant referee for two Scottish Cup Finals.
A Category One official since 2009, he has established himself as a regular in the Scottish Premiership since his first game – Dundee United’s 3-0 win over Dunfermline in March 2012 – and is one of seven Scottish referees on Fifa’s international list.
Beaton, whose cousin Steven Nicholls is also a referee, hit the headlines last year when he was headbutted during a volatile derby in Saudi Arabia between Al Hilal and Al Nasr – during which he issued three red cards.
It will be the second time the Lanarkshire-based whistler will encounter both teams in 2016-17 already.
Beaton was in the middle for Aberdeen’s 2-1 win over Partick Thistle at Pittodrie on August 20, in which he sent off Thistle captain Sean Welsh who showed dissent towards him to earn a second yellow late on.
He also gave the Gers an early spotkick on their way to a 3-0 win over Stranraer at Ibrox in July’s Betfred Cup group phase in the first round.
Sunday’s televised contest will see one of Scottish football’s most intense feuds resume as the Dons and the Gers lock horns for the first time since a 1-1 draw at Ibrox in the top-flight in January 2012.
With so much time having passed, only Craig Thomson and Willie Collum have officiated a game between the sides out of the current crop of Scottish referees.
Heading into the weekend, Derek McInnes’s side and Mark Warburton’s Gers boast almost identical records – with nine points from six games – and sit fifth and sixth respectively in the table.
Nick Walsh will take charge of his first Celtic game when the champions host Kilmarnock at Parkhead on Saturday (KO 15:00 BST).
The 30-year-old is seemingly in favour with the SFA at the moment, with this his fourth top-flight refereeing appointment of the season already, having only been promoted to Category One over the summer.
But it is a reflection of his lenient and consistent start to the campaign – he has only brandished six yellow cards in his three other Premiership games, which unusually have all been won by a 2-0 scoreline.
But he was public enemy number one at Easter Road last weekend as Ayr shocked Hibernian with a 2-1 victory after Hibs midfielder Marvin Bartley became his first red card victim of the season for a challenge on Jamie Adams.
The decision came at a crucial time and led Hibs boss Neil Lennon to blame what he described as “a poor refereeing performance” for the Championship title favourites’ loss.
Walsh was one of the most card-happy officials in Scotland having brandished 123 yellow cards and 14 red cards in 32 games last term, as well as awarding 10 penalties.
The Glasgow-born official was a regular in the Championship and fourth official for numerous Premiership games in the last two seasons.
Walsh will be assisted by Graham Chambers, Alasdair Ross and fourth official Stephen Finnie, with Willie Young keeping a close eye on his display as the SPFL referee observer.
He has so far stayed under the spotlight in his top-flight assignments but could be in for a tougher afternoon with more focus on the champions and every call under close scrutiny.
Despite leading the table by three points, Brendan Rodgers’s Celtic will want to bounce back after losing their 100 per cent league record in last weekend’s 2-2 draw at Inverness.
Meanwhile, Lee Clark’s Kilmarnock, who survived the play-offs last season, sit ninth heading into the weekend with six points from as many games and will hope to replicate their goalless draw in Glasgow last term.
You can view the rest of this weekend’s SPFL match official appointments here.