HARWICH and Parkeston assistant boss Mike Wallace believes relationships with referees have improved this season - thanks to more open channels of communication.

The Shrimpers are coming towards the end of a successful first season back at step six of the non-league pyramid.

They are fourth in Thurlow Nunn League first division south with their next match being Wednesday's trip to Hackney Wick.

Wallace is a well-known face on the north Essex circuit, having previously been a performance analyst at Brightlingsea Regent and assistant boss FC Clacton.

And as he comes towards the end of his first season at the Royal Oak, he says he has been impressed by the approach of referees during the Thurlow Nunn League campaign.

"Referees have been more understanding this season," he said.

"They're definitely talking more, both to the players and us managers.

"Everyone gives them a hard time and while there's still room for improvement, and mistakes will be made, they're taking the time to explain their decisions.

"They're giving their reasons and we can't ask for anything more than that.

"We might not agree with every decision but at least when it's been explained you can understand why it was made.

"Before, there weren't those open channels of communication.

"It's been a definite plus this season and we're definitely heading in the right direction.

"Referees are human. They make mistakes but then get bombarded and criticised.

"They're only going their jobs and we need to look after them.

"Yes, it can be frustrating sometimes but there's a more healthy relationship now and everyone needs to play their part in keeping that going.

"Without them, we wouldn't have a game.

"I've had more constructive conversations with referees than ever before."

Wallace is positive about new plans to introduce sin bins next season.

The scheme will be used to punish dissent and be rolled out across all step five and six leagues, which includes both divisions of the Thurlow Nunn League.

Other cautions and red cards remain unaffected and dissent deemed by the referee to involve behaviour that is insulting, abusive or offensive would still result in a player being sent off in line with existing rules.

Referees will show a yellow card and point to the technical area to signal a sin bin.

Players receiving a second sin bin in one game play no further part but may be substituted at the end of the second ten-minute period, provided they have not been booked for a separate offence and their team has at least one substitution left to use.

"Personally, I think the sin bins are a good idea," said Wallace, who works alongside Shrimpers manager Kieron Shelley.

"It'll allow officials to manage games better.

"If everyone gets on board, I believe they can become a good thing and will help referees.

"It's going to take time to bed in and there will be an element of trial and error.

"It may go wrong at times and lead to disagreement but as long as those channels of communication remain open I think it'll work."

Harwich had no game last weekend.

After their trip to Hackney Wick next Wednesday, they will only have four matches left - at home to Lopes Tavares, away to Benfleet and then at home to Little Oakley and Burnham Ramblers.

Meanwhile, Harwich have confirmed four pre-season games for July.

More dates will follow.

The fixtures already in the diary are at home to Clacton on July 2, at home to Stanway Rovers on July 9, away to Stowmarket Town on July 16 and at home to Brantham Athletic on July 19.