CONTROVERSIAL referee Darren Deadman will return to the middle this weekend, despite being heavily scrutinised for a poor display during Wimbledon’s 3-1 win at Oxford United last Sunday.
The Cambridgeshire whistler incurred the wrath of Oxford fans for a series of crucial decisions which went against their team and failed to take control of the match from the start.
But their anger is now likely to intensify after it was revealed on Monday he will be back on the pitch in League One, as soon as this Saturday.
Deadman has been appointed to take charge of Charlton Athletic’s match against struggling Coventry City at the Valley.
And, if that wasn’t bad enough, he will also be in the middle for Bolton Wanderers’ trip to face Millwall at the New Den next Tuesday night in the third-tier.
Despite his wealth of experience, the Peterborough-based official’s card-happy and strict line has not won him many supporters during his 11 years in the Football League.
In an interview in 2011, he described his approach as “firm but fair” and said he is unfazed by headlines such as ‘Dead Man Walking’ in reference to decisions which are unpopular with fans and managers alike.
Deadman, who was once in contention for promotion to the Premier League panel of referees, has long since harboured a reputation for not taking any prisoners and applying the letter of the law.
But he appeared to go against his usual principles at the Kassam Stadium, despite issuing just five yellow cards.
He let a number of strong and robust challenges go unpunished, including an early one by Wimbledon striker Tom Elliott which could have seen red, and was largely inconsistent with his decision-making throughout.
Oxford should have been awarded a first-half penalty when Chris Maguire was clearly tripped by Barry Fuller – and justifiably had reason to believe Wimbledon’s second goal shouldn’t have stood after Dean Parrett’s dangerous challenge in the build-up, despite his unobscured position.
He wasn’t a popular figure on the terraces, with followers of both teams making their feelings clear through a number of chants aimed at him.
Many supporters expressed their dissatisfaction with the standard of officiating on Twitter and felt he should be spared from duty, with some even calling for him to be removed from the list altogether.
But they haven’t been granted their wish as Deadman, who was overlooked for the newly-formed Select Group 2 in the summer, prepares for two more games in the next seven days.
And he will hope he’s not the centre of attention again – otherwise there may be some more criticism heading his way.
Deadman has, however, only brandished 47 yellow cards in 11 games in all competitions so far this season – as well as sending off Sheffield United’s Chris Basham before awarding the Blades a penalty in their 2-2 draw with Scunthorpe.
Like at the Kassam Stadium, he will be assisted for both of his upcoming games by linesman Andrew Aylott.
Deadman will also have Gavin Muge and fourth official Ian Cooper among his officials at the Valley on Saturday, with Stephen Finch his other assistant at the New Den and Dean Whitestone the fourth official.
Read more about who will take charge of the three Championship derbies this weekend here.
You can see a full list of SkyBet Football League match official appointments here.