Wolves 1-2 Stoke (17.12.2011)
Wolves manager Mick McCarthy was infuriated that Stoke defender Jonathan Woodgate was not sent off for a second booking in the game, but it is hard to agree with him.
Referee Taylor correctly booked Woodgate minutes prior for a late and deliberate foul but taking that out of consideration - as a referee must - and then reviewing his second foul, which led to a Wolves penalty, would lead most referees to back the decision to not dismiss the former Real Madrid player.
The penalty was correctly awarded but the Matt Jarvis had little or no chance of creating an opportunity for a team-mate to score. Moments before the foul, he had pushed the ball on and it seemed to be heading out for a goal kick. What's more, there were numerous other Stoke defenders in the box.
Winning the penalty seemed a bonus in itself as Woodgate made an irrational decision in a moment of little danger. But the foul was not reckless nor did it break-up a promising attacking move or position - so top marks to referee Taylor for standing strong.
The decision to substitute Woodgate immediately after clearly played a role in McCarthy's post-game outburst but his criticism is not backed-up by sufficient evidence.
Fulham 1-0 Liverpool (05.12.2011)
Kevin Friend is a Premier League new boy but has so far enjoyed a reasonably uncontroversial start to this time in the top division.
He was, however, tested during this well-fought encounter and had several critical decisions to make in a match that was otherwise fair and competitive.
Adam - Penalty or No Penalty?
Fulham were attacking when they lost the ball and a quick Liverpool break seemed sure to end in a goal. Philippe Senderos was chasing Charlie Adam (who ought to have passed to his left to a free Liverpool player), and eventually fouled him, clipping his legs from behind. The end result was a free-kick and yellow card.
The yellow card was undoubtedly correct as Adam was not presented with a clear opportunity to score. Other Fulham defenders had retreated and there was no clear shot on. The major talking point was if the foul was in or outside the box: Friend used the assistant referee to eventually give a free-kick, and on replays it looks the correct decision.
Adam fell well inside the area and there were two periods of contact - on his back and then legs. But even the latter occurred outside the box and a very tight decision was called correctly - a big plus for the referee team, given their status as freshers.
Jay Spearing - Red Card or No Red Card?
Spearing's dismissal came out of the blue: a relatively clean game was suddenly turned on its head. Even the television cameras had moved away from the incident when Spearing came through and seemed to win the ball from Moussa Dembele.
Suddenly the camera pulled back and Dembele was in a mighty heap and Friend had pulled his red card out. Replays showed Spearing had followed through and caught Dembele high up on the calf.
Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish summed it up well, "Sometimes it's a red, sometimes it's not." By the letter of the law, a red card was the correct decision. The tackle was hard and uncontrolled - the distinction had to be made between reckless and excessive force. Friend took his time and decided that the tackle offered enough danger to the player. Another day it might have been yellow, but referees are correct in dismissing players guilty of such offences as such wild tackles can lead to serious injury.
Arsenal 0-1 Manchester City (29.11.2011)
Lee Probert's stock is going up. Having admirably dealt with the recent Chelsea-Liverpool encounter at the Bridge, he displayed the same kind of form in the Carling Cup match-up between a pair of the Premier League's best.
Probert has, finally, developed his own style of refereeing - allowing plenty of physical contact but also making sure the players know of his presence and intolerance of certain fouls. Probert maintains his authority on the game by calling the necessary: such as Owen Hargreaves's pull from behind that earned him the only yellow card of the evening.
But otherwise the referee has to be complimented for following a similar kind of rhythm as he showed during the Chelsea-Liverpool match. Few fouls were given and the players soon understood that they would have to fight for each ball between them, rather than complain to the referee. The minimal dissent during tonight's game was notable.
There were few moments of controversy during the match as Arsenal dominated without penetrating the formidable wall that was Man City's reserve goalkeeper Pantilimon.
Probert's style is excitingly similar to that of former legend Peter Frojdfeldt. The Swede was famous for his presence on the field without needing a whistle. His clever diagonal and reading of the game ensured the players always has him in sight but rarely heard his whistle. low card counts and fluent, flowing matches were the norm.
Englishman Probert has been able to achieve that during the last two big games he has handled and if he can continue this fine run of form, surely Uefa and Fifa matches will follow.
LIVERPOOL 1-1 MANCHESTER CITY (27.11.2011)
Referee Atkinson enjoyed himself in an end-to-end, physically exhausting match but had some crucial decisions to take too.
Clearly referees have been told to watch out for Luis Suarez's exaggerated falls as although he earned a fair share of fouls during the encounter, on a couple of occasions Atkinson chose not to whistle when a foul seemed apparent. Yet Suarez on various occasions fell down too easily and Atkinson ultimately dealt well with the Uruguayan.
RED CARD - BALOTELLI: The biggest intervention from the referee was handing substitute Mario Balotelli a second yellow card in the space of seven minutes, and just 18 minutes after having come onto the field. Manager Roberto Mancini was unhappy with the second yellow card, given for an elbow on Martin Skrtel, as a result of undue influence from the Liverpool players.
Certainly it seems from the images that Atkinson is content just to award a foul without any further punishment before a handful of Liverpool players continue their protests, but it is important to remember that elbow offences are some of the hardest to judge and the referee was well within his rights to take his time.
Atkinson had to decide if the elbow was simply raised (free kick), was reckless (yellow card), or used excessive force (red card). In this case, Balotelli's elbow was not just raised but went in to Skrtel with a lack of control. It was by no means excessive, but a yellow card was justified given that Fifa asks referees to come down hard on these types of offences.
The first yellow card was correctly awarded after Balotelli grabbed the shirt of an opponent in an attacking position.
Atkinson's overall performance was solid and he let the game flow, allowing the 'little' fouls to go by and by no means over-whistling. His yellow cards were all justified and he never seemed in danger of losing control of the match.
Atkinson seems to be the man following in Howard Webb's footsteps - England's second-top referee and consistently in Champions League and International action. Recently, he reffed a Euro 2012 play-off between Czech Republic and Montenegro and last week was in Turkey for the Champions League game between Trabzonspor and Inter Milan.
His calm, controlled style, combined with accurate decision-making and minimum fuss, appeals to the referee committees at Uefa and Fifa and should Webb decide not to participate at the 2014 World Cup, surely Atkinson would be the one to go.