Referee takes centre stage on King’s Lynn Town boss Gary Setchell’s landmark day
- Credit: IAN BURT
There was only one man who was meant to be the centre of attention on Saturday.
His name, in case you were at The Walks and got confused by what was unfolding in front of you, was Gary Setchell. He could be seen and heard from within the home dugout.
The manager of King's Lynn Town was taking charge of his 250th game and was rightly applauded before kick-off for his cracking achievement. Yet by the end of an absorbing FA Trophy tie between the Linnets and Harrogate it was not Setchell's name that was on everybody's lips.
Anthony Da Costa arrived as a mere sideshow but left having done his utmost to take centre stage. Or that's how it seemed to appear to almost every single pair of eyes that watched on in horror at his display of refereeing at the weekend.
While the art of officiating is incredibly difficult, the simplicity of what often makes for a cracking display is easy to understand.
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A referee should not be noticed. He or she should be forgotten about. For they are not the star of the show.
Setchell is a shining light who, as a result of being a boss, has to put himself directly into the spotlight. Yet when it comes to a match kicking off, and often in press conferences of sorts afterwards, the Lynn boss is more than happy to let his players hog the attention.
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Despite the best efforts of Ryan Fryatt, Shaun Stocker, Ross Watson and Gregg Smith, even they couldn't ensure it was their surnames that were filling the air around the Walks or on social media once Harrogate had knocked the Linnets out of the third qualifying round.
That honour, albeit a dubious one in this case, went to Da Costa. And it wasn't for the right reasons either on a day he was booed and jeered off the pitch at half-time and the final whistle.
The anger of the home faithful, and Setchell, started to build by the man in the middle's constant desire to blow his whistle more than a police officer directing motorists in a busy city centre.
Big frontman Smith was involved in the sort of old-fashioned battle between strikers and centre-backs which can often be witnessed at non-league level. He gave as good as he got – which was the lot. But somehow almost every time he was penalised, until eventually Da Costa blew up in Smith's favour and the ironic cheers arrived.
If that on-going irritation had irked the watching masses, their annoyance quickly turned to sheer disbelief and raw grievance after the break when George Thomson was seemingly upended by Leigh Franks inside the penalty box. When David Bell was clearly tripped and fell on the ball, grabbing it in the process, and no foul was given, the tears were formed mainly through amazed laughter.
Yet not content with his bad day at the office dominating the theme, Da Costa made things even worse by awarding an 83rd-minute penalty to James Walshaw. The way the ball changed direction, to where Alex Street's arms had pushed, appeared to suggest that the shot-stopper had won the ball. The dismay at the sound of the whistle going, again, said it all.
Jake Speight made no mistake in slotting home from the spot to send his team into the first round proper. They perhaps deserved it for a gritty away showing. However, it was more than harsh on a Lynn side that had for large parts of the game outperformed their higher-level opponents.
The best chances came the hosts' way with Jake Jones, Steve Spriggs, Thomson and Smith all working keeper Phil Barnes in a first-half period that owed as much to the latter's bravery than his skill for maintaining the deadlock.
Yet Barnes' heroics were just a subplot in a saga that saw the main protagonist – Da Costa – leave the stage as the villain.
- Click here to read a match report, and see a gallery of Ian Burt's pictures, from Saturday's game.