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.

SkyBet Championship: Peter Bankes to referee Newcastle United v Aston Villa

The Merseyside whistler will be in the middle for a crunch televised SkyBet Championship clash at St James’s Park between two sides relegated from the Premier League last season.

Prominent: Bankes, who is now in his third season as a Football League referee, oversaw the first leg of the League One play-off semi-final between Barnsley and Walsall at Oakwell last season (Picture from Sky Sports)

The referee has been announced for the crunch SkyBet Championship clash between Newcastle United and Aston Villa on Monday night.

Peter Bankes will take charge of the televised encounter under the floodlights at St James’s Park with kick-off at 20:00 GMT, the Football League has confirmed.

He will be ably assisted by Paul Hodskinson (Lancashire) and David Avent (Northamptonshire), with Jeremy Simpson (Lancashire) on fourth official duties.

A Select Group 2 official primarily officiating in the second-tier, Bankes will oversee his 28th game in all competitions of what has been a busy campaign for him so far.

The 34-year-old has so far brandished 100 yellow cards and a staggering 10 red cards – which is twice the amount he gave in the whole of last season, while only Keith Stroud and Scott Duncan have sent off more players among the 18 Select Group 2 referees.

He has also pointed to the penalty spot on seven occasions – but only one of those spotkicks was in the second tier.

It will be the Merseyside whistler’s 19th Championship match of the season and he won’t forget his only other game involving Newcastle – their memorable 4-3 victory over Norwich at St James’s Park back in September.

Bankes booked 10 players and awarded the Magpies a dubious second-half penalty as they came from 3-1 down with two goals in injury time sealing a comeback victory.

Immediately after that game, he handled the first of his two Aston Villa matches this term – both ending up in 2-0 defeats away from home, which may be a bad omen for Villa boss Steve Bruce, who is bound to receive a hostile reception as a former Sunderland manager on Tyneside.

The notoriously card-happy Bankes issued another eight bookings in their loss at Preston at the start of October and awarded Villa a late spotkick, which Ross McCormack saw saved by Lilywhites keeper Chris Maxwell.

He was then in the middle for their defeat at Leeds United in front of the Sky Sports cameras in December and put in a good performance, with just four yellows given out.

Bankes returned to Elland Road on Tuesday evening as fourth official for Leeds’ match against Bristol City, while he assumed the same role at St James’s Park as recently as February 1 for Newcastle’s 2-2 draw with QPR.

The Liverpool-based official has shown plenty of promise in recent times and has received high praise from former Premier League referees Keith Hackett and Jeff Winter for impressive keeping some challenging games under control.

Fleeting: It will only be Bankes’s third appearance in front of the live TV cameras in all competitions this season (Picture from Sky Sports)

Bankes began officiating in 1996 at the age of 14 whilst a pupil at Bootle High School and served as a Premier League assistant referee for two years, during which he ran the line on FA Cup and League Cup semi-final ties.

Arguably the proudest moment of his career so far was refereeing Cambridge’s 2-1 win over Gateshead in the National League Promotion Final at Wembley in May 2014.

He was subsequently promoted to the Football League list of referees and has since taken charge of two Play-Off Semi-Final ties in League One and League Two, as well as being fourth official for last season’s FA Vase Final.

Bankes has already shown his officiate in the Select Group in the future having overseen several Premier League teams in domestic cup competitions, including Sunderland’s 2-1 EFL Cup win at QPR this season, and been fourth official for numerous top-flight games.

He had a busy time when performing electronic board duties at Turf Moor on Saturday, intervening on more than one occasion as Burnley and Lincoln City coaches clashed during the National League side’s famous 1-0 FA Cup fifth round win.

Meanwhile, Rafa Benitez’s Newcastle will be looking to reclaim top spot in the Championship from Brighton, who won 2-0 at Barnsley on Saturday, and return to winning ways after a 2-2 draw at Norwich in midweek.

Hovering just six points above the relegation zone, Aston Villa would be forgiven for fearing the worst having lost their last four league games and seven of the last eight on the road. The Midlands side, beaten 3-1 at home by Barnsley in midweek, have also not beaten Newcastle since 2011 or won on Tyneside since 2005.

The reverse fixture at Villa Park was also overseen by a Select Group 2 referee, with Chris Kavanagh performing well in September’s 1-1 draw between two sides seeking an immediate return to the Premier League following relegation last season.

Role: Bankes is a former Football Services Officer in Coach Education at Liverpool County Football Association (Picture from Sky Sports)

SkyBet Championship: Aston Villa hit back to deny Newcastle

Substitute Aaron Tshibola headed a late leveller for Aston Villa as a profligate Newcastle drew for the first time in the Championship this season.

  •  Tshibola’s late header cancels out Elphick own goal
  •  Two former Premier League sides produce all-action affair
  •  Fourth successive draw for Villa
  •  Newcastle drop points for third time in league this term
Elation: Villa celebrated wildly after 21-year-old Tshibola picked the perfect time to pop up with his first career goal in front of the Holte End (Picture from Sky Sports)

AARON Tshibola’s late equaliser earned Aston Villa a morale-boosting point as Newcastle United were left to rue a host of missed opportunities at Villa Park.

The substitute headed in his first Villa goal from a Jordan Ayew corner two minutes from time.

In a pulsating clash between two sides relegated from the Premier League last season, Newcastle were in complete control for long periods and looked set for a seventh win in nine league games as Villa captain Tommy Elphick turned DeAndre Yedlin’s cross into his own net in the first half.

But Mohamed Diame and Dwight Gayle passed up crucial chances for the visitors before Villa rallied late on and could have won it themselves.

Rafael Benitez’s side, considered favourites by many to win the title this term, remain fifth after their first league draw of the season – five points adrift of leaders Norwich, who they welcome to St James’ Park on Wednesday night.

Although their winless run extends to six games, Villa – without the injured Ross McCormack and ill-disciplined Jack Grealish – will be encouraged by their improved second-half display as they moved on to nine points from as many league matches this term.

For the first time in the second-tier, two Champions League winning managers went head-to-head – and Villa boss Roberto di Matteo will undoubtedly be the happier after seeing his side put under severe pressure in the first period.

Jordan Ayew
Off target: The Nigerian has yet to score from 27 efforts at goal in the Championship this season (Picture from Sky Sports)

Villa – who handed a first start to Albert Adomah – had started relatively well, with the former Middlesbrough winger releasing Jonathan Kodija down the right in the opening stages.

But the £15m summer buy from Bristol City cut inside unnecessarily, which allowed former Villa defender Ciaran Clark to get a block in.

Before long, the Magpies – who responded to last weekend’s 2-0 home defeat against Wolves by beating the same opponents in the EFL Cup in midweek – seized command and ran Villa’s three-man backline ragged with their movement in the final third.

This was emphasised when Elphick, wary of Gayle lurking with intent behind him, diverted Yedlin’s centre beyond Pierluigi Gollini just before the half-hour mark.

The ex-Bournemouth centre-back almost gifted Newcastle a second straight away when dwelling on the ball but Gayle could not finish one-on-one against Gollini.

With the hosts all over the place, Nathan Baker then had to make a crucial intervention when a menacing Gayle bore down on goal before Diame fired waywardly over after Gollini blocked a Matt Ritchie effort.

The only edgy moment for a dominant Newcastle in the first period came when Jonjo Shelvey was fortunate to receive only a yellow card for leaping into a challenge on Ashley Westwood in a reckless manner.

Clearly concerned by the visitors’ superiority, di Matteo threw on former Reading midfielder Tshibola in place of Baker and switched to a back four at the break.

There wasn’t an immediate change in pattern, as Newcastle pushed for the insurance goal to kill off the hosts.

The influential Shelvey tested Gollini from range before intelligently setting up Diame, but the former West Ham and Hull midfielder couldn’t open his Magpies account, slicing a glorious chance wide from 12 yards.

DeAndre Yedlin prepares throw-in
Concern: DeAndre Yedlin may have given Rafa Benitez another problem after coming off with an injury in the second half (Picture from Sky Sports)

The visitors were given a warning about complacency when Mile Jedinak was left free to head in Ayew’s pinpoint free-kick but was flagged offside.

Villa, who sent on top scorer Rudy Gestede for Adomah, had firmly sprung into life and Ayew came within inches of a spectacular goal when his rasping right-footer from 20 yards clipped the post.

But the forward played his part when the resurgent hosts levelled up, as his well-flighted corner picked out Tshibola and the summer signing – who was correctly booked for diving minutes earlier – escaped Isaac Hayden’s attentions to head home from two yards.

Having been on top for so long, it was Newcastle hanging on for dear life during six minutes of stoppage time, as an impassive Benitez was left to reflect on his side’s failure to add to their slender advantage.

However, it could be a significant turning point for Villa, who themselves have struggled to see out positive results this term, after fighting back from the abyss to secure a draw they feel was merited in the end.

Aston Villa 1 (Tshibola 88′)
Newcastle United 1 (Elphick 28′ og)


Aston Villa XI
One alteration: Jack Grealish’s place was taken by Albert Adomah in the solitary change from last Saturday’s goalless draw at Ipswich (Picture from Sky Sports)

Substitutes:  Tshibola (on for Baker 45′), Gestede (on for Adomah 63′) and Hepburn-Murphy (on for Westwood 86′).
Not used:  Bunn (GK), Hutton, Richards, Cissokho.
Booked:  Chester (41′), Baker (44′), Tshibola (79′)


Newcastle United XI
Three changes: Yedlin made his first league start in place of the suspended Vurnon Anita, while Clark and Gouffran were restored at Chancel Mbemba and Ayoze Perez’s expense (Picture from Sky Sports)

Substitutes:  Tiote (on for Yedlin 75′) and Mitrovic (on for Gayle 80′).
Not used:  Darlow (GK), Hanley, Lazaar, Atsu, Perez.
Booked:  Shelvey (27′)


Chris Kavanagh with Nathan Baker
In control: Kavanagh kept the game flowing and didn’t rush to his pocket – he correctly booked Tshibola for diving but was lenient with Shelvey’s first-half challenge (Picture from Sky Sports)

Referee: Chris Kavanagh (Manchester) – 8/10
Assistant referees: Nick Greenhalgh & James Mainwaring (Lancashire)
Fourth official: Simon Hooper (Wiltshire)

Attendance: 32,062


Positive reaction: The former Chelsea and West Brom boss saw his side salvage a point to maintain their unbeaten home record so far this term (Picture from Sky Sports)

Aston Villa manager Roberto di Matteo:

“I said [at half-time] lets just put them under pressure and lets ask some questions. We changed the formation a little bit as well and managed to get more of a hold of the ball and created some real problems for Newcastle. I really thought that towards the end we would have the opportunity to win the game as well. We had plenty of chances and we got into very good positions. Just the last pass was missing, but there was somebody at the end of the last cross.”

Frustrated: Benitez will wonder how his side were unable to turn their first-half dominance into another victory (Picture from Sky Sports)

Newcastle United manager Rafael Benitez:

“Di Matteo will have another vision of the second-half, but the first-half we were so dominant that we could finish the game and then we would be sat here talking about another thing. But that is football, you have to take your chances. We had to defend better second-half, but you have to give credit to them. The positives for our team were in the first-half and the negatives were in the second as we allowed them to stay in the game.”

SkyBet Championship: Chris Kavanagh to referee Aston Villa v Newcastle

The Manchester whistler will take charge of his first big game of the season when the two former Premier League sides meet at Villa Park.

Positive signs: Kavanagh is making excellent progress, despite overseeing just 30 Championship games overall in this his third season in the Football League (Picture from Sky Sports)

CHRIS Kavanagh has been confirmed as the referee for Saturday’s crunch SkyBet Championship clash between Aston Villa and Newcastle United.

The Select Group 2 official will take charge at Villa Park for the televised evening kick-off between two sides relegated from the Premier League last season (KO 17:30 BST, live on Sky Sports).

It’s viewed by many as one of the key games of the season so far, with both teams expected to be challenging for automatic promotion.

Kavanagh will be assisted in the west Midlands by two Select Group 2 assistants Nick Greenhalgh and James Mainwaring, both from Lancashire, with Simon Hooper (Wiltshire) acting as fourth official.

Hooper hit the headlines earlier this month, when the referee himself at Villa Park, for sending off Nottingham Forest midfielder Hildeberto Pereira for a second yellow card for celebrating their late equaliser in the 2-2 draw too vociferously.

He also turned down two strong penalty appeals for handball for Newcastle in their 1-0 defeat at Fulham in the first Football League match of the season last month.

On the box: Kavanagh handled eight live TV games last season – six in the Championship, one in League One and one in the FA Cup (Picture from Sky Sports)

Meanwhile, Kavanagh will oversee his 10th game of the season – and sixth in the Championship, with the other four occurring in the EFL Cup.

Unusually, the Manchester-based whistler officiated two first-round matches after standing in for the injured Mark Haywood in Carlisle’s 2-1 win over Port Vale before handling Bristol Rovers’ surprise 1-0 victory against Cardiff two nights later – his only other TV appearance this term.

The 30-year-old, who is being considered for Premier League promotion, was fourth official for Bournemouth’s 1-0 top-flight win over West Brom earlier this month.

But he has been in the middle for Everton’s 4-0 EFL Cup second round victory against Yeovil and, in midweek, put in a solid display when Hull beat fellow top-flight side Stoke 2-1 in the third round.

It’s already been a busy start to the campaign for Lancashire-born Kavanagh, who lives in Ashton-under-Lyne.

This will be his 13th appointment as referee or fourth official of the season and his second trip to Villa Park after being on electronic board duties for their 3-0 win over Rotherham on August 13.

Kavanagh has brandished an average of three yellow cards per game so far but is yet to send off a player, and awarded his first penalty of the campaign last weekend in Norwich’s 2-1 win at Nottingham Forest.

Half of his 36 games came in the Championship last season, during a year in which he proved his ability to earn a place among the 18-strong group of professional officials primarily officiating in the second-tier.

In doing so, he left his day job as Manchester County FA’s Referee Development Manager – a role he had fulfilled for two and a half years.

Establishing his name: Kavanagh, who has been refereeing since 1998, has more than 50 Football League games under his belt (Picture from Sky Sports)

It could be a challenging contest to control for Kavanagh, who was only promoted to the Football League in 2014 but has been to Wembley as fourth official for the 2015 FA Vase Final.

His only other encounters with both sides were in last season’s League Cup – Newcastle’s 1-0 defeat at home to Sheffield Wednesday and Aston Villa’s 5-3 win after extra time against Notts County, whose angry boss Ricardo Moniz branded him ‘arrogant’ afterwards.

Kavanagh will also be in the Second City next midweek as fourth official for Birmingham’s match with Preston North End at St Andrew’s on Tuesday night.

There will also be a rare and exciting occurrence as two managers who have won the Champions League pit their wits against one another in the Championship – Newcastle boss Rafa Benitez won it with Liverpool in 2005 and Villa’s Roberto di Matteo clinched the trophy at Chelsea in 2o12.

Title favourites Newcastle’s run of five straight league wins was abruptly ended by last Saturday’s 2-0 home defeat by Wolves, while Villa sit 18th with one win, five draws and two losses from eight games so far.


Wigan Athletic v Manchester United - Pre-Season Friendly
Having a laugh: Langford (second right) shares a joke with Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho after their pre-season friendly with Wigan in July (Picture from Getty Images)

Oliver Langford will be in the middle for Friday night’s Lancashire derby between Preston North End and Wigan Athletic at Deepdale (KO 19:45 BST, live on Sky Sports).

The 36-year-old, from the West Midlands, will take charge of his sixth game of the season in all competitions – and fourth in the Championship.

He will be assisted by James Wilson (Cheshire) and Christopher Akers (south Yorkshire), with Stephen Martin (Staffordshire) on fourth official duties.

Select Group 2 referee Langford, who has been in the Football League since 2009, will also handle Brentford against Reading at Griffin Park next Tuesday in the second-tier.

Langford’s only other live TV match this term was on the opening weekend, when he awarded a second-half penalty to QPR in their 3-0 victory over Leeds at Loftus Road.

It was one of four spotkicks he has awarded so far while he has averaged three yellow cards per game but is yet to send a player off.

Langford only encountered Preston twice last term – in their goalless draw at Derby in February and 1-0 defeat at Middlesbrough in April, but was only in charge of Wigan’s 3-2 win at Peterborough in League One a year ago.

You can view a full list of SkyBet Football League match official appointments here.

Newcastle beat sluggish Derby to continue winning Championship run

Goals from Yohan Gouffran and DeAndre Yedlin secured Newcastle a fourth successive league win against a toothless Derby County at the iPro Stadium.

  •  Newcastle’s fifth straight win in all competitions
  •  Gouffran and Yedlin on target for the Magpies
  •  Derby suffer back-to-back Championship defeats
  •  One goal in six league games for the Rams
Newcastle celebrate Yohan Gouffran goal
Full of joy: Gouffran celebrated with team-mates after scoring his first Newcastle goal since January 2015 (Picture from Sky Sports)

NEWCASTLE United re-affirmed their Championship promotion credentials with a fourth successive league win as Derby County’s slow start to the season continued.

Yohan Gouffran’s stunning 12-yard volley broke the deadlock at the iPro Stadium after 20 minutes.

Derby – toothless in the first period – went closest when Craig Bryson’s effort tested Matz Sels and debutant Ikechi Anya’s cross fortuitously hit the crossbar in the second half.

But the assured Magpies sealed a deserved win in stoppage time through substitute DeAndre Yedlin, who slid in with Martin Olsson to bundle home from close range.

It was also a fourth successive clean sheet for Rafa Benitez’s men, who put in another solid display as they moved up to second in the table on goal difference.

Rafa Benitez
Revolution: Rafa Benitez has steered the Magpies to five straight wins in all competitions since losing their opening two games against Fulham and Huddersfield (Picture from Sky Sports)

Derby, meanwhile, slip to 19th as their struggles in front of goal continued against the promotion favourites, now boasting just a solitary goal in six league games under Nigel Pearson.

The former Newcastle assistant manager handed debuts to on-loan Watford winger Anya and record signing Matej Vydra, and a first start to James Wilson, to add more firepower after the surprise 1-0 defeat to Burton Albion before the international break.

Derby imposed themselves early on and had a penalty appeal waved away on 12 minutes after Olsson went down under Vurnon Anita’s challenge but referee Darren Bond – a late replacement for James Linington who pulled his calf in the warm-up – was not interested in the slightest.

Newcastle – who recalled Jack Colback and Dwight Gayle for Isaac Hayden and Ayoze Perez – grew into the game and took the lead eight minutes later.

Jonjo Shelvey delivered a deep corner and Gouffran watched the ball all the way before connecting with a sweet right-foot volley, which beat Johnny Russell for pace on the goalline.

Yohan Gouffran in action
Sporadic: Gouffran has drifted in and out of the Newcastle team since arriving from Bordeaux in January 2013 (Picture from Sky Sports)

The Frenchman’s first goal of the campaign bred confidence into the Magpies, who monopolised possession for long periods and tamed any hope Derby had of a quick response.

The Rams, without last season’s 13-goal top scorer Chris Martin who joined Fulham on loan on deadline day, were unable to test Newcastle’s rookie keeper Sels at all in the first half.

With Pearson’s words still ringing in their ears, Olsson curled a cross-cum-shot and then sent a looping header narrowly wide as Derby offered an immediate improvement after the break.

Sels beat away Bryson’s stinging drive midway through the second half – Derby’s first shot on target – before Anya’s deflected cross clipped the top of the woodwork.

But that was as good as it got for the misfiring Rams, with Newcastle holding a measure of command – much to the frustration of Pearson and the anxious home crowd.

Nigel Pearson
Differing experiences: Pearson won the Championship title with Leicester in 2013-14 but faces a tougher task to get Derby into the Premier League (Picture from Sky Sports)

The resolute Magpies, who lost 3-0 in their last meeting with Derby in February 2010, didn’t create many opportunities of their own – their best second-half efforts coming from Mohamed Diame, one wide of the target and one straight at Scott Carson.

Benitez appeared to have shut up shop with the introduction of Yedlin for Gouffran, but the American international popped up in the right place to wrap up the win in stoppage time.

The right-back, making his second substitute appearance since arriving from Tottenham for an undisclosed fee, will at least claim the goal after getting on the end of fellow sub Perez’s low centre.

Although Olsson may be credited with an own goal, it was merely academic as Newcastle beat fellow promotion contenders for the second game running to establish themselves in the top two.

However, there is plenty of work to do for Derby – who have been in the play-offs for the last three seasons but a third league defeat of the season means they face being cut adrift of the challengers even at this early stage if they don’t improve quickly.


Derby County XI
Three changes: Ikechi Anya, James Wilson and Matej Vydra made their first starts in place of the departed Chris Martin and benched duo Tom Ince and Jacob Butterfield (Picture from Sky Sports)

Substitutes:  Blackman (on for Wilson 65′), Ince (on for Anya 78′) and Bent (on for Shackell 88′)

Not used:  Mitchell (GK), Pearce, Johnson, Butterfield.

Booked:  None

Goals:  None


Newcastle XI
Decisions: Besides two changes from the Brighton win, Shelvey made a first away start of the season but new signings Daryl Murphy and Christian Atsu didn’t make the squad (Picture from Sky Sports)

Substitutes:  Yedlin (on for Gouffran 73′), Perez (on for Gayle 76′) and Hayden (on for Diame 88′)

Not used:  Darlow (GK), Clark, Lazaar, Mitrovic.

Booked:  Shelvey (24′), Gouffran (60′), Gayle (76′)

Goals:  Gouffran (20′), Yedlin (90+1′)


Darren Bond in action
Stepping in: Bond, who was due to be fourth official, did a good job of controlling the game overall after replacing Linington in the middle at the last minute (Picture from Sky Sports)

Referee: Darren Bond (Lancashire) – 8/10
Assistant referees: James Wilson (Cheshire) and Mark Russell (Somerset)
Fourth official: James Linington (Isle of Wight)

Attendance: 30,405


Derby County boss Nigel Pearson: “For us, it is another frustrating day but in a different way to the Burton game. Our application was good, we took the game to our opponents but unfortunately for us conceded a goal probably when we were causing them quite a few problems. I cannot fault the application.”

Newcastle boss Rafa Benitez: “It’s not me – it’s the players who does a great job. The main thing for me is to see the team working as a team but there is still room for improvement.”

Football League: Simon Hooper to referee Fulham v Newcastle opener

Simon Hooper will referee Friday’s 2016-17 Championship opener, while three officials make their Football League debuts and Lee Probert returns to action.

Simon Hooper and Ben Mee (Burnley v Brighton - 22nd Nov 2015)
On the box: Hooper handled six Championship games on TV last season, as well as one in League One and another in the League Cup (Picture from Sky Sports)

SIMON Hooper will referee the opening match of the 2016-17 SkyBet English Football League season on Friday night.

The 34-year-old, from Wiltshire, will be in the middle for Fulham against relegated Newcastle United in the Championship at Craven Cottage (KO 19:45 BST, live on Sky Sports).

He will be ably assisted in west London by Adam Crysell (Essex) and Robert Hyde (London), while the fourth official is David Coote (west Yorkshire), who will fulfil the same role for Saturday’s Championship match between Bristol City and newly-promoted Wigan Athletic at Ashton Gate.

Hooper will also be the fourth official for Ipswich Town’s match with Barnsley at Portman Road on Saturday.

Simon Hooper referee (Burnley v Brighton - 22nd Nov 2015)
Aim: Hooper, who has been fourth official for a number of Premier League games, has ambitions to become a Select Group referee (Picture from Sky Sports)

Last season, he took charge of his only Premier League game on the opening weekend when Norwich lost 3-1 to Crystal Palace at Carrow Road – in which he controversially ruled out a second-half Cameron Jerome equaliser for the Canaries.

His display was heavily criticised, including by former top-flight official Mark Halsey.

Hooper also made headlines on the opening weekend two years ago when he appeared to be shoved by Norwich’s Martin Olsson as he sent off the defender in their 1-0 Championship defeat by Wolves at Molineux.

The former IT services manager, who has officiated over 100 Championship games, is now one of 18 referees which forms the new Select Group 2 to take charge of second-tier matches.

Simon Hooper stats
Statistics: How Simon Hooper’s 2015-16 campaign fared across all competitions (Picture from

The Swindon-based whistler handled 43 games across all competitions last term – brandishing 103 yellow cards, sending off two players and awarding 11 penalties.

Failing to make the grade at Swindon Town as a striker when released at the age of 16 after seven years at his hometown club, Hooper took up refereeing with his father Pete and progressed to earn promotion to the Football League as a linesman in 2006.

He oversaw the Conference League Cup Final in 2008 at the end of his first campaign as a National List referee, in which Aldershot Town defeated Rushden and Diamonds 4-3 on penalties after a 3-3 draw at the Recreation Ground.

His first ever Football League game came in the fourth tier when Exeter faced Shrewsbury in August 2007.

Simon Hooper (Brentford 0-1 M'boro at Griffin Park - 31st Jan 2015)
Decade: Hooper is starting his 10th season as a National Group referee (Picture from Sky Sports)

Hooper has had two trips to Wembley in his career so far – refereeing the 2015 League Two Play-Off Final after being fourth official for the FA Trophy Final in the same year.

He will control his first game involving Newcastle but encountered Fulham three times last season – their 3-2 defeat at Sheffield Wednesday in September, 4-1 win over Rotherham in December, and 2-2 draw with Reading in March in which he awarded two penalties.

It’s the start of Fulham’s third consecutive season in the Championship and first full campaign under former Watford manager Slavisa Jokanovic.

Newcastle, relegated from the Premier League last season, face a second Championship season in six years and Rafael Benitez’s side have been installed as promotion favourites by bookmakers.

Oliver Langford with Sam Clucas (v Reading - 16th Dec 2015)
Established: Langford has handled almost 200 games in his eight seasons in the Football League so far (Picture from Sky Sports)

Elsewhere, Oliver Langford will be in charge of Sunday’s first televised game between QPR and Leeds United at Loftus Road (KO 12:00 BST, live on Sky Sports).

The West Midlands whistler will be assisted by Steven Meredith (Nottinghamshire) and Mark Russell (Somerset), while Andy Madley (west Yorkshire) will be the fourth official.

Also, Stephen Martin will be the man in charge for Sunday’s other game as Sheffield Wednesday take on Aston Villa (KO 16:30 BST, live on Sky Sports).

The Staffordshire-based referee will make the decisions at Hillsborough as last season’s play-off finalists Wednesday host relegated Villa, who will be under Roberto di Matteo in a competitive game for the first time.

Martin – who was fourth official for the League One Play-Off Final in May – has officiated over 150 Football League games since joining the National Group in 2012.

It’s not the first time he has received a Championship TV game on the opening weekend of the season after overseeing Ipswich’s 2-1 win over Fulham in August 2014.

Both refereed League Two Play-Off semi-finals last season – with Langford having an eventful night in Portsmouth’s 2-2 first-leg draw with Plymouth, while Martin took charge of AFC Wimbledon’s 1-0 first-leg win over Accrington Stanley.


Keith Stroud referee (Blackburn v Burnley - 24th October 2015)
Seasoned campaigner: Experienced former Premier League official Stroud has overseen two of the last three opening matches to a Football League season (Picture from Sky Sports)

August 7, 2015:  Brighton 1-0 Nottingham Forest (Championship)
Referee:  Keith Stroud (Hampshire)

August 8, 2014:  Blackburn Rovers 1-1 Cardiff City (Championship)
Referee:  Andy Madley (West Yorkshire)

August 2, 2013:  Sheffield United 2-1 Notts County (League One)
Referee:  Keith Stroud (Hampshire)

August 17, 2012:  Cardiff City 1-0 Huddersfield (Championship)
Referee:  Roger East (Wiltshire)

August 5, 2011:  Hull City 0-1 Blackpool (Championship)
Referee:  Scott Mathieson (Cheshire)


John Brooks flags for offside (Arsenal v Man United - 4th October 2015)
Running the line: Brooks was a Premier League assistant referee for four seasons and joined the Fifa list in January 2015 (Picture from Sky Sports)

Three referees will be running out at Football League stadiums for their first games in the middle in League Two on the opening weekend.

Leicestershire’s John Brooks will take charge of Blackpool’s first fourth-tier game since relegation against Exeter City at Bloomfield Road.

Robert Jones, from Merseyside, will be in the middle for Newport County against Mansfield Town at Rodney Parade.

Ollie Yates (Staffordshire) faces a long journey to Somerset after being appointed to Yeovil Town’s opening match at home to Notts County.

All three officials were promoted from the National League during the summer, along with Michael Salisbury, Brett Huxtable and John Busby.

Brooks was a linesman for a number of high-profile Premier League games, as well as the 2014 Championship Play-Off Final and 2016 FA Cup Final – both at Wembley.

The 26-year-old will oversee Gary Bowyer’s first match in charge of the Seasiders, with the assistance of Michael Denton (Lancashire), Wayne Grunnill (East Yorkshire) and fourth official Alan Clayton (Cheshire).

Jones has refereed in the National League and Women’s Super League for two years as well as being a Football League assistant for over 100 games.

The Liverpool-based official had two trips to Wembley in May – as referee for the National League Promotion Final and assistant referee for the League One Play-Off Final.

He will be assisted on Saturday by Ravel Cheosiaua (Worcestershire) and Select Group linesman Andy Garratt (west Midlands), with Eddie Smart (west Midlands) in control of electronic board duties.

Meanwhile, Yates, who had been a Football League assistant since 2009, only refereed 21 National League games in two seasons but was fourth official for May’s Promotion Final between Grimsby Town and Forest Green Rovers.

His assistant referees at Somerset Park are Matt Eva (Surrey) and Michael Webb (Surrey), while Simon Knapp (Bristol) will be the fourth official.


Lee Probert pulls out yellow card (Hull v Man Utd - 24th May 2015)
Injury-ravaged: Probert has handled 145 Premier League games since 2007 but only seven in the last two seasons (Picture from Sky Sports)

Premier League referee Lee Probert is set to make his long-awaited return from injury this weekend.

The Wiltshire-based whistler will take charge of the League Two clash between newly-promoted Cheltenham Town and Leyton Orient.

He will be assisted by Select Group linesmen Derek Eaton (Gloucestershire) and Andrew Fox (Warwickshire), with Marc Perry (West Midlands) acting as fourth official.

Probert has only handled 22 games in all competitions in the last two seasons having been sidelined with leg, knee and back problems respectively.

It led to rumours the 43-year-old could be forced to retire prematurely but, after officiating several pre-season friendlies, he will be back on duty at Whaddon Road – close to where he was born in south Gloucestershire.

Lee Probert sends off Marouane Fellaini (v Hull - 24th May 2015)
Seeing red: Probert sent off Manchester United’s Marouane Fellaini in their goalless draw at Hull in his last domestic match on the final day of the 2014-15 Premier League season (Picture from Sky Sports)

Probert oversaw just one game last season – a Europa League qualifier in Belgium in July between Charleroi and Beitar Jerusalem, in which he issued seven yellows and two red cards.

He only officiated 21 games in 2014-15 – with the first not coming until December 20 in Accrington’s 1-1 draw with Wycombe in League Two.

Probert didn’t take charge of the first of his seven Premier League games that season until April 4 in QPR’s 4-1 win over 10-man West Brom at the Hawthorns.

He could be in line for a first top-flight match since May 2014 next weekend, in this his 10th year as a Select Group referee.

Probert – who was the man in black for the 2014 FA Cup Final at Wembley – is still one of eight English Fifa referees, having been on the list since 2010.

Click here for a full list of appointments for the Football League’s opening weekend

SkyBet Football League: 20 questions ahead of 2016-17 season

Ahead of the start of the 2016-17 campaign, here are 20 questions across the three divisions to keep in mind as the games progress.

Ball and vanishing spray (Reading v QPR - 3rd Dec 2015)
Rebrand: The Football League has been christened the English Football League from this season but will still be sponsored by SkyBet (Picture from Sky Sports)

AS the days count down until the first ball is kicked to launch the most eagerly-awaited Football League season in years, there are a number of things to keep a close eye on.

From managerial arrivals and the battle for promotion to new faces settling in at clubs and who is going to find it tough to survive, there are sub-plots galore across the Championship, League One and League Two in 2016-17.

Here are 20 questions which will hopefully be answered by the time the play-offs come around in May…


Rafael Benitez in dugout (v Man City - 19th April 2016)
Times quickly change: The former Liverpool boss was in charge of Spanish giants Real Madrid 12 months ago (Picture from Sky Sports)

1)    Will Rafael Benitez guide Newcastle to an immediate top-flight return?

2)    How will Burton Albion fare on their Championship debut?

3)    Is Chris Wilder the man to take Sheffield United up from League One at long last?

Nigel Clough on sidelines (v Southend - 22nd Feb 2016)
Unchartered territory: The former Derby boss helped the Brewers secure successive promotions last term in his second spell in charge (Picture from Sky Sports)

4)    Will Championship defences be terrified of Wigan Athletic’s Will Grigg?

5)    What does the campaign hold for beleaguered Aston Villa, under new management?

6)    Can Rotherham United kick on under Alan Stubbs?

Alan Stubbs watches on (3-0 v Alloa - 21st Feb 2016)
New league: Former Everton defender Stubbs is fresh from guiding Hibernian to their first Scottish Cup triumph since 1902 (Picture from Sky Sports)

7)    Can Brighton and Sheffield Wednesday bounce back after play-off disappointment?

8)    How will newly-promoted Grimsby Town adapt to life back in the Football League?

9)    Will the league meetings of AFC Wimbledon and MK Dons live up to expectation?

Chris Hughton and Carlos Carvalhal
Working wonders: Brighton boss Chris Hughton (left) and Wednesday head coach Carlos Carvalhal guided their teams to the play-offs against the odds (Picture from Sky Sports)

10)   Is this the year Leeds United sustain a Championship play-off push?

11)    Will Portsmouth finally make the first step on the road to recovery?

12)    Was the decision to replace Kenny Jackett with Walter Zenga right for Wolves?

13)    How will the fresh faces in Lancashire get on at their respective new clubs?

Lancashire new managers 2016-17
(Clockwise, from top left)  Blackpool’s Gary Bowyer, Uwe Rosler at Fleetwood, Blackburn’s Owen Coyle and Phil Parkinson at Bolton all have new jobs in the county

14)    Is the legendary Jaap Stam cut out for being a Championship manager?

15)    Do the likes of Ipswich Town, Birmingham and Cardiff City have enough for another top-six finish in the Championship?

16)    What does the campaign have in store for Northampton Town under Rob Page in League One?

17)    Are Bradford equipped for a Championship challenge on Stuart McCall’s return?

Stuart McCall at Ibrox (Rangers v Cowdenbeath Scottish Cup - 10th Jan 2016)
Back on familiar ground: The ex-Rangers and Motherwell manager, 52, was first at the helm at Valley Parade between 2007 and 2010 (Picture from Sky Sports)

18)    Can Darrell Clarke continue the remarkable Bristol Rovers revival?

19)    Will Hartlepool United be able to avoid falling down the trapdoor into the National League once again?

20)    Can Derby County’s talented crop fulfil their potential under Nigel Pearson?

Nigel Pearson on sidelines (v Chelsea - 29th April 2015)
Experience: The ex-Hull City boss masterminded Leicester’s remarkable turnaround to avoid Premier League relegation in 2014-15 (Picture from Sky Sports)