Cobblers boss Jon Brady knows his side are there to be shot at this season and more teams will look to ‘break up’ the rhythm of games following a frustrating opening-day encounter against Colchester United.
Town ultimately claimed victory thanks to Ryan Haynes’ 89th-minute winner but, after a strong start by the hosts, Saturday’s game at Sixfields developed into a bitty, stop-start contest with Colchester constantly allowed to break things up by the officials.
EFL referees have been given a new directive this season that aims at letting play flow. The new guidance includes a higher threshold of fouls, cutting down on time-wasting antics and ensuring player behaviour does not overstep the mark.
It was reported ahead of the new season that the Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL), the governing body of match officials in England, had committed to making the EFL a better product for 2022/23.
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Officials have been instructed to adopt a higher threshold for penalising contact in challenges, taking into account how much contact there was, the consequences of it and what the attacking player’s motivation was. After the 2021/22 campaign saw less playing time than ever before, referees will also be more proactive in curbing time-wasting and will be prepared to sanction players early on in the game.
However, despite this new guidance, referee Martin Woods constantly broke things up by awarding free-kicks for minimal contact on the opening weekend, none more so than when he pointed to the spot for the softest of fouls by Tyler Magloire on Noah Chilvers.
Given Town’s lofty finishing position last season, and the expectations on them this year, Colchester are unlikely to be the last team who visit Sixfields with similar tactics.
"I think the game was probably quite exciting for the neutral,” said Brady. “We didn't want to leave it that late but full credit to to Colchester, they kept pushing and pushing and to show the character we did to come back from being pegged back, and after some tough decisions against us, it was good character and resilience.
"They tried to break the rhythm of the game up and to be honest they succeeded in doing that. I feel it could have been officiated better but I don't want to get into that too much. We need to play our way.”