RARELY a football game goes past without the referee being criticised by players, club officials and spectators.

In fact, I can't recall many exceptions at matches I have reported on this season – and that is rather a large number.

So it was refreshing to see the man in black actually come in for some praise following Reading City's Hellenic League fixture with Flackwell Heath on Monday.

David Pilling was a late appointment – so late his name wasn't even in the programme – and he did an excellent job.

Despite their 1-0 defeat, City chairman Martin Law led the praises, quickly followed by Heathens manager Marcus Richardson.

Making his return to his old club, Richardson tweeted: "Over the last few weeks of me ranting on about refs, I would like to say David Pilling and his officials had a very solid and good game. So just thanking them for the performance – well done."

And that was despite seeing one of his players, Tyrese Corbin-Chandler, being sent off following the only nasty challenge in the whole game.

With referee observer Ken Clark looking on, Pilling was assisted by Chris and Craig Boyles, and the father-and-son duo will be back at Rivermoor Stadium next Monday evening when City host Shrivenham, this time assisting Daniel Jacobs.

l AT least two former players look set to return to Reading Cricket Club for the coming season.

Atif Nasim, who left a few years ago when he went to Pakistan, has rejoined as 1st XI captain and all-rounder Jack Beaven could follow him.

And Nasim is hoping more old players will also be prepared to support him as he bids to help turn the club's fortunes around.

Following three successive relegations, the Sonning Lane club now find themselves down in Division 2b of the Thames Valley League, with their first fixture at Bagshot on May 11.

Khurram Mahmood will skipper Reading 2nds in Division 4a, where their rivals include neighbours Sonning, another club hoping to regain former glories.

It wasn't that long ago when both clubs were on level ground with Wokingham, but the Oaks have grown so quickly since moving to Sindlesham that it is their 3rd XI who will now be taking on Reading 2nds and Sonning 1sts.