Referee Brian Russell knocked out by Belton’s Dean Pretlove in Norfolk Junior Cup quarter-final

Battle-scarred referee Brian Russell is back in business, days after being left out for the count in an accidental clash with a teenage player.

One of Norfolk's most dedicated men in the middle got a little too close to the action for comfort when he was knocked out during the first half of the Belton v Scole Norfolk Junior Cup quarter-final.

But within days normal service was resumed as took in an evening of County 5ives action as well as two weekend games.

Recalling the incident, which caused the Belton v Scole game to be abandoned within half an hour, he said: 'Somebody tried to do a scissor kick and unfortunately my head got there before the ball. Apparently I was out before I hit the ground. I sustained a cut cheek, black eye and loosened a couple of teeth. They reckon I was out for about five minutes. I can only remember waking up in the changing room.'

Belton central midfielder Dean Pretlove, 17, admitted he was worried after the incident. 'I was just trying to clear the ball and Brian was in the way. I didn't see him there. I just felt something hit my foot.

'I was gutted. I know Brian because he has refereed games I have played in before. I saw him after the game in the pub and we shook hands.'

The duo were back in action on the pitch when the game was restaged at Belton on Saturday.

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And the referee was quick to put the young player at ease. 'I spoke to the lad before the game. The incident really shook him up big time. But I told him not to blame himself – he was just in the right place at the wrong time –in fact we both were.'

Mr Russell, 63, who lives at Gorleston, has been refereeing matches all over the county since 1977. He took up refereeing after breaking his ankle three times while playing for local sides such as Birdseye and Juka.

Although he didn't expect officiating to be quite so precarious, he regards the odd mishap as part and parcel of the doing the job he loves. Around six years ago he was accidentally knocked out when he ran into a player's shoulder refereeing a Sunday Intermediate Cup game at Mill Lane, Bradwell. 'I ended up in hospital after that one. I tore my calf muscles as I went down.'

He won't be hanging up his whistle any time soon. 'If I don't get a game I get withdrawal symptoms. I enjoy it as much now as when I first started. I would miss the players as much as they would miss me.'

Saturday's game between Belton and Scole ended in a 4-4 draw after extra time with Pete Reddy's home side equalising in the dying minutes to keep their hopes of reaching Carrow Road alive. The teams meet again at Scole this Saturday but Brian won't be taking charge for the third time as he'll be officiating in a game closer to home. Dean though will be in action: 'Let's hope it's third time lucky,' he said.

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