Referee Darren Drysdale has been given overwhelming support on social media after he was photographed confronting Irish midfielder Alan Judge during a game on Tuesday night.
The match official came close to headbutting the player during a heated exchange at the end of the match.
Judge, 32, was playing for Ipswich - former champions of England, who have fallen on hard times and are now in the third tier of English football.
Is there a Darren Drysdale fan club I can join Joe. Thats my kind of ref!— Martin Sutton ⚽ (@covmartin) February 17, 2021
They were drawing 0-0 at home with lowly Northampton when Judge was booked for diving in the penalty box. He ranted at the referee, who squared up to him intimidatingly before the pair were broken up by Northampton's Lloyd Jones.
Darren Drysdale you absolute legend . Don't mess with the ref— Jason Bastin (@Bazilbastin) February 17, 2021
After the incident Ipswich's Flynn Downes was sent off for violent conduct.
Fair play to referee Darren Drysdale if that player gave him some verbal abuse just because he got caught diving.— Justin Handby (@handbyj) February 17, 2021
The Football Association is investigating Drysdale’s contact but on Twitter he has been praised for standing up to footballers.
Surprised by the amount of love this ref is getting for standing up to a player that obviously said something abusive to him. Thought social media would of thrown him under the bus. @SkySports #referee #darrendrysdale https://t.co/5L0n5gJajy— jon edmunds (@jonedmunds) February 17, 2021
Several people on social media compared him favourably to retired Italian referee Pierluigi Collina, who was famous for his bald head and intimidating presence.
Pierluigi Collina - the most respected referee. Players knew where they stood with him - no one had an issue with it, why now with Darren Drysdale? - keep doing what your doing Darren, footballers need to be reigned in!— Stu Hand (@Red1_STFC) February 17, 2021