How Rebecca Welch fared as she became the first woman to referee an EFL game

Rebecca Welch blows the whistle for full time (Nigel French/PA)
Rebecca Welch blows the whistle for full time (Nigel French/PA) (PA Wire)
18:05pm, Mon 05 Apr 2021
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Rebecca Welch became the first female referee to officiate an EFL match when taking charge of Harrogate’s 2-0 home defeat to Port Vale.

It was a text-book refereeing display by the 37-year-old official – barring a controversial decision to turn down a first-half penalty appeal by Harrogate in this Sky Bet League Two fixture.

Here, the PA news agency focuses on Welch’s decisions during her historical first EFL appearance.

Before kick-off – Welch was calmness personified as she entered the pitch flanked by assistant referees Geoffrey Liddle and Barry Gordan. It was a low-key entrance, with no fanfare.

Fourth minute – Welch kept her composure during a frantic start to the game, concurring with her assistant’s early offside decision and awarding her first free-kick of the game to Port Vale following Lloyd Kerry’s robust challenge on Manny Oyeleke.

17th min – The action was fast and furious and Welch was never off the pace and quickly on the scene to check on Vale forward Theo Robinson, who took a knock on the head.

20th min – Welch turned down a penalty appeal from Harrogate when Jack Muldoon’s cross hit Nathan Smith on the hand, but there was little the visiting defender could do about it and as he did not make his body shape bigger; it appeared the correct decision.

31st min – Port Vale defender Leon Legge clattered into the back of Connor Hall and despite loud appeals from the home side, Welch waved play on. She was perfectly placed to make her decision, but Legge’s challenge perhaps warranted a penalty. It was certainly a contentious decision.

36th min – Welch has a firm word with Vale’s David Worrall, who took exception to the official’s decision to award a free-kick for a foul on Town forward Josh McPake.

51st min – Harrogate’s George Thomson is the first player to be shown a yellow card by Welch, for his clumsy tackle on Worrall. There could be no complaints.

61st min – Port Vale’s Tom Conlon is the second and last player to be booked by Welch after the visitors’ forward brought down Harrogate skipper Josh Falkingham.

80 mins – A throw-in was awarded by the visitors’ corner flag and when Legge urged Welch to award a goal-kick, the official firmly put the Vale defender in his place with a smile.

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