SkyBet Championship: Bobby Madley to referee Brighton v Newcastle

The Premier League referee will take charge of the crucial top-of-the-table battle at the AMEX Stadium between two sides destined for the top-flight.

In the middle: Madley took charge of the first Premier League game of 2017 in a goalless draw between Middlesbrough and Leicester at the Riverside (Picture from Sky Sports)

A Premier League referee will take charge of the crucial SkyBet Championship clash between leaders Brighton and second-placed Newcastle United.

Bobby Madley has been appointed to keep the peace as the two hot favourites for promotion do battle at the AMEX Stadium in front of the Sky Sports cameras on Tuesday night (KO 19:45 GMT).

The 31-year-old will be assisted on the south coast by Select Group linesmen Marc Perry (west Midlands) and Adrian Holmes (west Yorkshire), while Lee Probert (Wiltshire) is the fourth official.

Madley – who hails from west Yorkshire – will take charge of his 28th game of the campaign in all competitions.

Overall, he has so far brandished a massive 119 yellow cards, sent off four players in four different competitions and awarded eight penalties (seven in the Premier League).

It will be Madley’s first Championship game of the season and he has only ventured down into the Football League once before.

He was criticised by Scunthorpe United boss Graham Alexander for his display in the League One leaders’ 3-1 defeat at Southend United earlier this month and dismissing midfielder Neal Bishop for perceived violent conduct late on at Roots Hall.

Bobby Madley referee (Hull v Sheffield Weds - 28th May 2016)
Honour: Madley was a surprise choice as he became the youngest referee to handle a Championship Play-Off Final last season (Picture from Sky Sports)

The Ossett-born whistler, who joined the Fifa list of international referees last year, was only in the middle for two Championship games but one was another pivotal encounter for Brighton which proved decisive in the promotion battle.

On his last visit to the AMEX, Madley oversaw the Seagulls’ 1-1 draw with Derby County in their penultimate league game in May last year, sending off Brighton defender Lewis Dunk for a second bookable offence late on before James Wilson’s late equaliser for the hosts.

Just five days later, he oversaw his last match involving Newcastle, which was a difficult one for him to contend with in a goalless draw at already-relegated Aston Villa as beach balls were thrown onto the pitch in protest by the home fans at Villa Park.

However, he will still be remembered by most Magpies fans from last season’s Wear-Tyne derby against Sunderland for the controversial dismissal of Fabricio Coloccini which led to a penalty and subsequently turned the game in favour of the Black Cats, who ran out 3-0 winners at the Stadium of Light.

Last May, Madley also handled his first game at Wembley as a referee and put in a solid performance in the Championship Play-Off Final as Hull City earned promotion with a 1-0 win over Sheffield Wednesday, with the appointment coming despite his Yorkshire connections.

It was his second trip to the national stadium last term having been fourth official to Michael Oliver for the League Cup final between Liverpool and Manchester City, capping a consistent and excellent season for him.

Recent: Madley’s last encounter with a Championship side was earlier this month in Fulham’s 3-0 FA Cup defeat at home to London rivals Tottenham (Picture from BBC Sport)

The Wakefield-born official has established himself as one of the better referees in the Select Group in the last two seasons and will no doubt benefit from the departure of Mark Clattenburg at the end of the season with more regular high-profile matches.

Madley’s most recent game was at Selhurst Park on Saturday for Crystal Palace’s 1-0 win over Middlesbrough in the Premier League, in which he somehow booked James McArthur for diving rather than award Palace a penalty when the midfielder was fouled by Stewart Downing in the box.

He only joined the National List of referees in 2010 but has made plenty of progress since.

Madley sent off three players on his Premier League debut when West Brom beat Southampton 3-0 at St Mary’s in April 2013 before being promoted to the Select Group of referees for the 2013-14 campaign.

He is the younger brother of Select Group 2 referee Andy, who endured a busy weekend after being fourth official for Wolves against Birmingham at Molineux on Friday night and sending off Aston Villa’s Leandro Bacuna for pushing a linesman in their 1-0 win over Derby County on Saturday.

Bobby Madley speaks to Yaya Toure (v Everton CO Cup SF 1st leg - 6th Jan 2016)
In control: Madley has shown he can remain calm under pressure, overseeing a League Cup semi-final and a Merseyside derby last season without difficulty (Picture from Sky Sports)

Huddersfield Town fan Bobby has previously handled seven Brighton games stretching back to 2012, all in the Championship, while he has controlled six matches involving Newcastle – four in the Premier League and two in the League Cup.

A referee since 2001, Madley’s experience of the Football League will be required in what is likely to be a fiery and tense occasion under the floodlights on the south coast for the standout game of the midweek fixtures on Tuesday night, with the pressure high on both teams to deliver a positive result.

Newcastle had the edge when the sides met back in August at St James’s Park, with goals from captain Jamaal Lascelles and Jonjo Shelvey securing a 2-0 win over 10-man Brighton.

The vastly-experienced former Premier League official Keith Stroud was in charge and issued six yellows as well as dismissing Sam Baldock for a second bookable offence for a challenge on Newcastle keeper Matz Sels.

Brighton, managed by former Magpies boss Chris Hughton, went top of the Championship on Saturday after a 3-0 win over promotion rivals Reading in the evening kick-off, following Newcastle’s 2-2 draw at home to struggling Bristol City.

Rafael Benitez’s men came from two goals down to earn the point which keeps them one point behind leaders Brighton with 13 games remaining.

Meanwhile, after the game at the AMEX, Madley will be back in Premier League action at the weekend after being appointed to Saturday’s evening showdown between heavyweights Liverpool and Arsenal at Anfield.

Mike Dean to referee Middlesbrough v Brighton promotion decider

Experienced Premier League referee Mike Dean will be making the decisions as Middlesbrough host Brighton in a crucial promotion battle on the final day of the SkyBet Championship season.

Mike Dean explaining a decision
Veteran: Dean has been a referee since 1985 and has a wealth of experience with many high-profile games under his belt (Picture from Sky Sports)

PREMIER League referee Mike Dean has been appointed to the crucial SkyBet Championship showdown between Middlesbrough and Brighton this weekend.

The 47-year-old, from the Wirral, will be in charge at the Riverside Stadium on the final day of the regular season on Saturday as second place and automatic promotion is on the line.

He will be assisted by Select Group linesmen Simon Long (Devon) and Ian Hussin (Liverpool), while the fourth official is Darren Drysdale (Lincolnshire).

Dean is the most experienced of the current crop of Premier League officials having been officiating in the top-flight since 2000 and will be the ideal man to handle what is likely to be a tense encounter.

It will be the first time he encounters Middlesbrough since their 2-0 defeat by Norwich in the play-off final at Wembley last May.

Dean has not officiated a Brighton match since their 2-0 home win over Portsmouth in the Championship in March 2012.

Mike Dean watches on
Next week: Dean will also be the referee for Tuesday’s Premier League game between West Ham and Manchester United (Picture from BBC Sport)

The Tranmere Rovers fan, who lives in north Wales, will take charge of his third Championship game of the season and fourth in the Football League.

He refereed Burnley’s 2-1 win at Bristol City in August and Blackburn’s 2-1 Lancashire derby victory at Preston in November, in which he gave the visitors a penalty and sent off the hosts’ Bailey Wright late on.

Dean was also at the helm for Sheffield United’s 1-0 win over south Yorkshire rivals Doncaster in League One, giving out two yellow cards at the Keepmoat Stadium in February.

Overall, the former Fifa referee has issued 123 bookings, sent off 11 players and awarded 14 penalties in 37 games in all competitions so far this term.

The reverse fixture at the AMEX Stadium was also officiated by a Premier League referee as Craig Pawson oversaw Middlesbrough’s 3-0 win in December which ended Brighton’s 21-game unbeaten start.

It will be Dean’s second successive weekend in the north east after refereeing Newcastle’s 1-0 win over Crystal Palace at the weekend.

His appointment came just hours after Boro boss Aitor Karanka called for “the very best referee” to take charge of the crucial game.

Dean’s major honours include the 2004 Community Shield, 2004 FA Trophy Final, Championship Play-Off Finals in 2006, 2009 and 2015, the 2008 FA Cup Final and the 2011 League Cup Final.

He was also on the Fifa list for a decade before reaching the mandatory retirement age of 45 in 2013.

Roger East in charge
Familiar territory: East – who was a Football League referee for seven years before his 2013 promotion – will oversee his third Championship game of the season (Picture from Sky Sports)

Elsewhere, fellow Premier League whistler Roger East will be in charge at the Valley for the other televised Championship game this weekend.

The 50-year-old, from Wiltshire, will be the man in black as promoted Burnley can seal top spot with a win over relegated Charlton, who will play their final game in the second tier.

He will be assisted for Saturday’s 12:30 BST kick-off in south London by Derek Eaton (Gloucestershire) and Andy Garratt (Walsall), with Gavin Ward (Surrey) the fourth official.

East will also be in the middle for next Wednesday’s Premier League clash between Norwich and Watford at Carrow Road.

Craig Pawson to referee Brighton v Burnley

Premier League referee Craig Pawson will oversee leaders Burnley’s trip to second-placed Brighton in the SkyBet Championship in Saturday’s televised early kick-off.

Craig Pawson referee (Man Utd v Arsenal - 28th Feb 2016)
On the continent: Pawson has handled Europa League and international fixtures since becoming the seventh English referee on the Fifa list in January 2015 (Picture from Sky Sports)

PREMIER League referee Craig Pawson has been appointed to the televised SkyBet Championship encounter between Brighton and fellow promotion chasers Burnley this weekend.

The 36-year-old, from South Yorkshire, will take charge when the leaders travel to the AMEX Stadium to face the second-placed Seagulls in Saturday’s lunchtime kick-off (12:30 BST, live on Sky Sports).

He will be assisted on the south coast by Select Group linesmen Adam Nunn (Wiltshire) and Andrew Fox (Warwickshire), while Football League referee Darren Deadman (Cambridgeshire) is the fourth official.

It will be Pawson’s fourth Championship game of the season – all of which will have been shown live on TV.

In his previous second-tier game, he sent off Middlesbrough defender Ben Gibson for two bookable offences late on in their goalless draw at Leeds in mid-February.

It will be Pawson’s second AMEX visit this season after he oversaw Brighton’s 3-0 defeat by Middlesbrough in December – which ended their 22-game unbeaten start.

He was also in the middle for the Severnside derby slatemate between Cardiff City and Bristol City in south Wales back in October.

Overall, the Sheffield-based whistler has handled 37 games across eight competitions so far this term – issuing 129 yellow cards, sending off five players and awarding three penalties.

Craig Pawson's referee stats 2015-16
The figures: How Pawson’s campaign has fared to date (Picture from

Pawson last encountered Burnley in their 4-2 FA Cup defeat against Tottenham at White Hart Lane in January when they were a Premier League team.

He has handled 23 Premier League games this season, only four officials have received more top-flight appointments.

Pawson has been trusted with several high-profile fixtures recently – including Liverpool’s goalless draw at Spurs in Jurgen Klopp’s first game in November and Manchester United’s win over Arsenal last month.

It was also confirmed in February that he will be an additional assistant referee as part of Martin Atkinson’s team of officials at Euro 2016 in France this summer.

Pawson has impressed during a rapid rise since being promoted to the Select Group at the start of 2013-14 season after proving his ability in five seasons in the Football League, the 2012 League One play-off final and a trial Premier League game in March 2013.

He was the fourth official for both the Capital One Cup and FA Cup Finals at Wembley last season, and flew to Singapore last summer with Jon Moss to referee at the Barclays Asia Trophy and educate Asian officials.


Kevin Friend in action (Palace v Chelsea - 3rd Jan 2016)
Record: Friend has brandished 72 yellow cards, sent off four players and awarded five penalties in 24 games this season (Picture from Sky Sports)

Fellow Premier League referee Kevin Friend will be in the middle for Saturday’s Yorkshire derby between Rotherham and Leeds in the SkyBet Championship (KO 15:00 BST).

It will be the 44-year-old’s first game back since he was hospitalised after falling in the dugout during Bournemouth’s Premier League win over Southampton on March 1.

The Leicester-based whistler will be assisted at the New York Stadium by National List linesmen James Mainwaring (Lancashire) and Shaun Hudson (Tyne & Wear), while David Webb (County Durham) is the fourth official.

Friend has handled four previous Championship games this term – including Leeds’ 1-1 draw with Burnley on the opening weekend.

He will be hoping for a quieter game than Keith Stroud, who issued seven yellow cards and two reds in Rotherham’s 1-0 win in November’s reverse fixture at Elland Road.


Simon Hooper (Wolves v Reading - 26th December 2015)
On trial: Hooper received his first Premier League game on the opening weekend of the season (Picture from Sky Sports)

Simon Hooper will be the man in black for QPR’s Championship meeting with promotion hopefuls Middlesbrough on Friday night.

The 33-year-old IT manager, from Swindon, will oversee the first game of the Football League weekend following the international break at Loftus Road (KO 19:45 BST, live on Sky Sports).

He will be assisted in west London by Carl Fitch (Suffolk) and Daniel Robathan (Surrey), with Dean Whitestone (Northampton) on fourth official duties.

Hooper has officiated QPR’s league games at home to Cardiff and away a Brentford, and Middlesbrough’s FA Cup defeat by Burnley this season.

Simon Hooper stats as of 29th March 2016
Regular: Hooper will be in the middle for his 19th Championship game of the season (Picture from

Brighton thrash poor Leeds United to boost promotion hopes

Brighton moved to within two points of Championship leaders Burnley as four first-half goals condemned Leeds United to a crushing defeat at the AMEX Stadium.

  •  Brighton now two points behind leaders Burnley
  •  Second successive 4-0 win for the Seagulls
  •  Leeds suffer heaviest defeat of the season so far 
  •  United nine points above the relegation zone 
Brighton celebrate third goal (v Leeds - 29th Feb 2016)
No mercy: Hemed struck his fifth goal in six games to put Brighton 3-0 up inside the opening half-hour (Picture from Sky Sports)

BRIGHTON moved to within a point of the SkyBet Championship’s top two as four first-half goals swept a poor Leeds United aside.

Tomer Hemed converted an 18th minute penalty after Scott Wootton felled Sam Baldock and Liam Cooper diverted a Baldock effort past his own keeper Marco Silvestri for 2-0.

Top scorer Hemed slotted in his second of the night – and 11th of the season – before Lewis Dunk powered home Dale Stephens’ corner to put Chris Hughton’s team out of sight.

Leeds marginally improved after the break as Alex Mowatt twice fired over but the damage had long been done, much to the dismay of the 1,522 fans who made the 520-mile round trip to west Sussex.

Steve Evans on the sidelines (v Brighton - 29th Feb 2016)
Alarming decline: Leeds United have now won just one of their last 11 matches in the Championship (Picture from Sky Sports)

Head coach Steve Evans repeatedly vented his fury on the sidelines as the error-prone visitors, who stay 17th in the table, contributed to their own downfall and remain without an away league win since December.

For Brighton, it was a second successive 4-0 victory after Bristol City fell victim at Ashton Gate six days ago as they went six points clear in fourth place with a dominant display in front of their home supporters.

The buoyant Seagulls looked like flying away with the game from the moment Hemed cheekily chipped home from the spot after referee Peter Bankes penalised Wootton for hauling down Baldock as he charged into the box.

Leeds again shot themselves in the foot when Cooper inadvertently steered Baldock’s poked attempt into his own net after good approach play involving the impressive Stephens.

Pre-match scene (Brighton v Leeds - 29th Feb 2016)
Edging closer: Brighton – beaten play-off semi-finalists in 2013 and 2014 – are bidding to reach the Premier League for the first time (Picture from Sky Sports)

Brighton were in the mood for more and Hemed slid a low shot into the bottom corner after Leeds skipper Sol Bamba failed to clear his lines effectively.

Jamie Murphy and Beram Kayal forced smart saves from Silvestri before Dunk got in on the act on 37 minutes with his first goal of the season, an unstoppable header into the top corner from a pinpoint Stephens delivery.

Evans sent on Mustapha Carayol for the wounded Wootton at the break but it was a damage limitation exercise for the beleaguered Whites, who restored a semblance of pride with a better second half performance.

Mowatt lashed over on two occasions from promising situations, Charlie Taylor tested David Stockdale and 20-year-old Lewie Coyle went close with a left-footed effort.

Finding form: Hughton’s men have rediscovered their winning formula with a sixth victory in the last eight league games (Picture from Sky Sports)

Brighton struggled to fashion clear-cut chances after the break, Hemed produced a routine save out of Silvestri from the edge of the box and substitute Jiri Skalak was ran off the ball by Bamba when clean through.

But the hosts had already demonstrated their promotion credentials with a blistering four-goal spell in 21 minutes to complete a league double over Leeds, following a 2-1 success at Elland Road in October.

The Whites, meanwhile, will be desperate to get their biggest defeat in two years quickly out of their system as their wait for a first ever win at the AMEX Stadium was extended for another year.


Brighton XI (v Leeds United - 29th Feb 2016)
Unchanged: Brighton named the same team that thrashed Bristol City 4-0 last Tuesday night (Picture from Sky Sports)

Substitutes:  Skalak (on for Baldock 74′), Wilson (on for Hemed 77′) and Sidwell (on for Kayal 78′).

Not used:  Maenpaa (GK), Greer, Calderon, Zamora.

Booked:  Rosenior (7′), Baldock (34′), Goldson (60′)

Goals:  Hemed (18′ pen, 28′), Cooper (22′ og), Dunk (38′)


Leeds United XI (v Brighton - 29th Feb 2016)
Two alterations: Scott Wootton and ex-Brighton midfielder Liam Bridcutt came in for Tom Adeyemi and Mirco Antenucci from their 1-1 draw with Fulham (Picture from Sky Sports)

Substitutes:  Carayol (on for Wootton 45′), Erwin (on for Doukara 75′) and Murphy (on for Diagouraga 84′).

Not used:  Peacock-Farrell (GK), Berardi, Adeyemi, Antenucci.

Booked:  Mowatt (33′), Coyle (57′), Cooper (68′), Taylor (90+3′)

Goals:  None


Peter Bankes referee (Brighton v Leeds - 29th Feb 2016)
Firm but fair: The official had a fair bit to contend with but handled proceedings well and wasn’t easily fooled by the players (Picture from Sky Sports)

Referee:  Peter Bankes (Merseyside) – 8/10
Attendance:  25,150

Cardiff City crush Brighton to ignite Championship play-off push

Cardiff scored four goals for the first time since 2012 to move to within two points of the Championship play-offs as third-top Brighton were soundly beaten at the Cardiff City Stadium.

  •  Cardiff’s biggest win of the season so far
  •  Bluebirds unbeaten in 12 home league games
  •  Brighton suffer second away defeat of campaign
  •  Seagulls lose at Cardiff City Stadium for first time
Peter Whittingham goal 1-0 16 mins (v Brighton - 20th Feb 2016)
Sublime: Midfielder Whittingham broke the deadlock from a precise effort with the outside of his boot (Picture from Sky Sports)

CARDIFF City moved to within two points of the play-offs with a crushing victory over a profligate Brighton, who missed the chance to go joint-top of the SkyBet Championship.

The Bluebirds answered owner Vincent Tan’s calls to “shoot more” after back-to-back goalless draws in ruthless fashion as they raced in to a three-goal lead inside the opening half-hour.

Peter Whittingham’s classy effort, an Anthony Pilkington shot and Lex Immers’ potent finish put Russell Slade’s team firmly in charge.

Dale Stephens headed Brighton back in contention early in the second half but Whittingham’s penalty, after Connor Goldson’s foul on Pilkington, rounded off Cardiff’s biggest league win since April 2013.

Russell Slade and Chris Hughton watch on
Long time coming: It was the first time Cardiff have beaten Brighton in the past nine meetings between the sides (Picture from Sky Sports)

The Welsh outfit have now climbed two places to seventh ahead of Saturday’s later games as they recorded only a second win against a team above them in the table this season.

Meanwhile, a Brighton win would have lifted them level on points with leaders Hull and above second-placed Middlesbrough, with both teams not in league action this weekend.

But their five-game unbeaten run came crashing to an end as they suffered only a second defeat on the road this season.

Chris Hughton’s team, which was three different from the midweek stalemate at the KC Stadium, had settled well amid difficult conditions in South Wales but were punished for defensive lapses as a clinical Cardiff took control.

Whittingham had already gone close with a free-kick which David Stockdale parried behind before the veteran midfielder nonchalantly stroked home the opener from Matthew Connolly’s pass on 16 minutes.

Peter Whittingham
Making records: Whittingham is now seventh in Cardiff’s all-time scoring charts with 88 goals for the club (Picture from Sky Sports)

Three minutes later, Stockdale was heavily at fault when his poor clearance caught Dale Stephens unaware and he could not readjust as Pilkington curled in a shot which squirmed under the ex-Fulham keeper for his sixth goal of the campaign.

It got better for the Bluebirds when Immers benefitted from a ricochet off Goldson to fire in his second goal in three games since joining on loan from Feyenoord.

Brighton dominated possession for long periods in the first half and went close on a couple of occasions to reducing the arrears.

Inigo Calderon and Anthony Knockaert forced David Marshall into action and Bobby Zamora, on his 150th appearance for the club over three spells, stabbed Jiri Skalak’s centre off target.

The hosts had further opportunities with on-loan Leicester forward Tom Lawrence bringing an uncertain save out of Stockdale before the impressive Immers curled wide when manoeuvring space for himself on the edge of the box.

The Seagulls made a double change at the break as Tomer Hemed and the fit-again Liam Rosenior replaced Calderon and Steve Sidwell.

The substitutions appeared to do the trick and a Brighton recovery looked likely when Stephens, who scored in a 1-1 draw against Cardiff in October, nodded in Skalak’s left-wing cross.

But the visitors shot themselves in the foot as Cardiff, who lost right-back Fabio to injury, regained their three-goal advantage midway through the second half.

Referee Darren Bond, who could have penalised Lewis Dunk earlier for tugging back Bruno Ecuele Manga in the box, pointed to the spot after Goldson brought down Pilkington and Whittingham emphatically converted for his fifth goal of the season.

Cardiff City Stadium (South Wales)
First time: Brighton suffered their first-ever defeat at the Cardiff City Stadium on their fourth visit

Brighton introduced Sam Baldock in place of Zamora but, aside from two wayward Knockaert efforts, could not muster any more sightings of goal.

Hughton will be desperate for a response to this uncharacteristically poor display at Bristol City next Tuesday night, having shipped four goals for the first time this season.

In contrast, it was the first time Cardiff had scored four goals for the first time since October 2012 – even without a recognised striker in their team.

And Slade will hope this convincing result can help his side build on their run of just one defeat in their last seven games and provide a launchpad to sustain their push for a top-six finish.


Cardiff City XI
One change: Lex Immers made his second Cardiff start as a makeshift striker in place of suspended Sammy Ameobi, who was sent off at Charlton last weekend (Picture from Sky Sports)

Substitutes:  Peltier (on for Fabio 56′), Gunnarsson (on for Pilkington 74′) and Zohore (on for Lawrence 85′).

Not used:  Moore (GK), Dikgacoi, Saadi, Oshilaja.

Booked:  O’Keefe (2′)

Goals:  Whittingham (16′, 66′ pen), Pilkington (19′), Immers (30′)


Brighton XI
Three alterations: Beram Kayal, Tomer Hemed and Jamie Murphy dropped to the bench as Bobby Zamora and Andrew Crofts returned, and Jiri Skalak made his full debut (Picture from Sky Sports)

Substitutes:  Hemed (on for Sidwell 45′), Rosenior (on for Calderon 45′) and Baldock (on for Zamora 67′).

Not used:  Maenpaa (GK), Greer, Beram Kayal, Murphy.

Booked:  Rosenior (72′)

Goals:  Stephens (55′)


Darren Bond in action (Cardiff v Brighton - 20th Feb 2016)
Calm: Bond remained calm under pressure, was decisive from the second minute when he booked Stuart O’Keefe and rightly gave Cardiff a second-half penalty (Picture from Sky Sports)

Referee:  Darren Bond (Lancashire) – 8/10
Assistants:  Andrew Turner (Devon) & Adrian Tranter (Dorset)
Fourth Official:  Stephen Martin (Staffordshire)

Attendance:  14,143


Russell Slade pre-match
Former club: Slade saved Brighton from being relegated in League One in 2009 during his time in charge of the Seagulls (Picture from Sky Sports)

“We have been creating chances. Today we were ruthless, took our chances and fully deserved the win. It was better than we hoped for. We’ve got a young midfield and new combinations over the pitch who haven’t played together a lot.

“I was pleased with the maturity of the performance. The front players worked tirelessly. Anthony Pilkington is a good finisher and he was a thorn in their side all afternoon. We are hoping the hunger takes us in to the play-off places. We’ve got tough opposition again on Tuesday and we’ll keep going. We need to keep improving.”

Chris Hughton pre-match (v Cardiff - 20th Feb 2016)
Promotion expert: Hughton has guided Newcastle to the title and Birmingham into the play-offs in his previous two full seasons in the Championship as a manager (Picture from Sky Sports)

“We can have no complaints. Even if you come in to the game in the form we were in, if you are 3-0 down at any stage, particularly as early as we were, it’s a difficult one to come back from. For the form we’ve been in, we’ve generally defended well but we’ve conceded soft goals which isn’t like us. Ironically, at 3-1 we were back in the game and had two good opportunities but I can’t have any complaints.”

Referee Darren Bond set for Cardiff v Brighton

Darren Bond will be the man in the middle when Cardiff host promotion-chasing Brighton in front of the Sky cameras in the Saturday lunchtime kick-off.

Darren Bond with Henri Lansbury (v Blackburn - 14th Dec 2015)
Established: Bond is in his fourth season as a Football League referee (Picture from Sky Sports)

DARREN Bond will take charge of his first SkyBet Championship match of 2016 on Saturday when Cardiff host Brighton live on TV, the Football League has confirmed. 

The 37-year-old, from Lancashire, will be the referee when the play-off chasing Seagulls visit south Wales for the lunchtime game (KO 12:30 GMT, live on Sky Sports).

He will be assisted by Adrian Tranter (Dorset) and Andrew Turner (Devon) with Stephen Martin (Staffordshire) on fourth official duties.

Bond has handled 25 games in all competitions so far this season – brandishing 76 yellow cards, sending off two players and awarding seven penalties.

The Ormskirk-based whistler last visited the Cardiff City Stadium on the opening weekend when the Bluebirds drew 1-1 with Fulham.

He has not encountered Brighton since their 1-1 draw against Wolves at Molineux in December 2014, in which he sent off Bruno for a two-footed challenge and controversially reversed a Wolves penalty.

It will only be the seventh time that Bond, considered to be part of the Talent Group of officials hoping for Premier League promotion, will oversee a Championship game in 2015-16.

Two of the previous six have been live on TV – Leeds’ 2-1 win at Derby in August and a goalless draw between Blackburn and Nottingham Forest in December, for which he was a late replacement for the ill Chris Kavanagh.

The former Premier League linesman was criticised in August by then Rotherham boss Steve Evans for a “rubbish” display in their 2-1 defeat at Nottingham Forest.

Bond – who controlled 11 Championship games among 40 in all competitions last term – also had a tough time handling the League One play-off semi-final first leg between Sheffield United and Swindon last May with some debatable decisions made.

He incurred the wrath of then Blades boss Nigel Clough, who felt his side should have had three penalties before Swindon were awarded a spotkick of their own at Bramall Lane.

Bond could be in for a difficult game, with Russell Slade’s ninth-placed Cardiff desperately hoping to close the gap on the play-offs and Chris Hughton’s Brighton seeking to maintain the pressure on the top two.

The Bluebirds are five points adrift of the top six with 15 games left while the Seagulls are three points behind leaders Hull City, who they drew 0-0 against at the KC Stadium on Tuesday night.

Keith Stroud in charge of Brighton v Brentford

Referee Keith Stroud will take charge of his 17th Championship game of the season when Brighton host Brentford in front of the Sky Sports cameras on Friday night.

Keith Stroud in action (QPR v Hull City - 1st January 2016)
Familiar face: Stroud will oversee his 17th Championship game of the season on the south coast (Picture from Sky Sports)

REFEREE Keith Stroud will take charge of Friday’s televised SkyBet Championship encounter between Brighton and Brentford.

The 46-year-old, from Hampshire, has been confirmed as the man in the middle at the AMEX Stadium for the first game of the Football League weekend (KO 19:45 GMT, live on Sky Sports).

He will be assisted by Dean Treleaven (West Sussex) and Marc Wilson (Cambridgeshire), while James Linington (Isle of Wight) is the fourth official.

Stroud has handled 31 games across seven competitions so far this season – issuing 134 yellow cards, sending off eight players and awarding six penalties.

Keith Stroud awards free-kick (Sheff Weds v Hull - 17th Oct 2015)
Butt of jokes: Stroud had to be replaced late on in Wednesday’s 1-1 draw with Hull at Hillsborough in October after clashing with Chuba Akpom (Picture from Sky Sports)

The former Premier League whistler has officiated two top-flight games in 2015-16, 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.

Keith Stroud books Eric Lichaj (v Brighton - 7th August 2015)
Opener: Stroud booked six players in the first Football League game of the season between Brighton and Nottingham Forest (Picture from Sky Sports)

The Bournemouth-born official will visit the AMEX Stadium for the third time this season after overseeing their 1-0 win over Nottingham Forest on the opening weekend and 3-2 victory over 10-man Charlton in December.

It will also be his third Brentford away game of the campaign following their 4-2 win at Bristol City in August and 2-1 triumph over Reading – while in both, the Bees’ opponents had a player sent off.

Stroud’s most recent appearance in the middle came at the New York Stadium last Saturday in Charlton’s 4-1 success over Rotherham.

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.

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.

Keith Stroud referee (Blackburn v Burnley - 24th October 2015)
Affiliation: Stroud is a boyhood supporter of current League Two club Luton Town (Picture from Sky Sports)

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 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.

Chris Hughton’s Brighton – who sit fifth in the table, level on points with fourth-placed Derby – are seeking a third straight league win after a run of four straight defeats.

Meanwhile, Dean Smith’s Brentford have taken four points from their last two league matches against Leeds and Preston following their own run of four successive losses.