Manager Keith Curle ‘warned’ his Cobblers players to be ‘mindful’ of their challenges prior to Harry Smith’s red card during the 1-0 victory over Stevenage on Tuesday evening.
The announcement of Charles Breakspear as referee for Tuesday’s fixture at the Lamex was greeted by a wave of discontent from both sets of supporters who were well aware of the Surrey official’s notoriously card-happy refereeing style.
Before Tuesday, Breakspear had sent off four players in seven games this season – more than anyone else in the division – and he seems to have taken a particular dislike to the Cobblers.
Of the eight games he’s reffed Town across the past three seasons, he’s sent off seven different players. For context, of the other 134 league games Northampton have played in the same period, they’ve had a total of just eight red cards.
Smith, shortly after opening the scoring, joined the likes of John-Joe O’Toole and David Buchanan on Breakspear’s list of victims during Tuesday’s game, and whilst his second caution was understandable, the first, seemingly for dissent, was one of many on the night that seemed unnecessary.
There was 10 yellow cards in total against Stevenage, a remarkably high figure for a game that was by no means dirty, and Curle admitted afterwards that he had warned his players to watch their step.
A conversation or a chat can calm everyone down whereas if you start brandishing yellow cards you set the tone and you feel you have to book everybody.
He said: “We spoke to the players and warned them to be mindful of the tackles and be mindful of how you speak to the referee because he’s a stickler for the laws of the game and his interpretation.
“He will brandish cards which is his style and we accept that. I’ve got to say, as a personality, I quite like the referee. I had a chat with him before the game and at half-time and I’ve seen him afterwards.
“As a character, I like him because he’s honest and he’s got his way of officiating and I think sometimes it’s getting a bit more of an understanding of the affect of the soft yellow cards.
“It then leaves him nowhere to go when there is another caution so it’s getting that interpretation right.
“There were some tackles that needed a caution but there was some that were a little bit soft and then it leaves them nowhere to go.
“A conversation or a chat can calm everyone down whereas if you start brandishing yellow cards you set the tone and you feel you have to book everybody.”