MANY moons ago, some unfortunate scheduling led to a large swathe of our Sunday football team having to turn up for a match straight off the bus home after a stag do in Edinburgh. It went exactly as you would expect.

With goals raining into our net and most of the boys sweating profusely despite having barely moved, the ref asked if we might want to call the game early and head for a wee hair of the dog, an offer of mercy that was gleefully accepted in the same way a round of Aftershocks was just a few hours previously.

Even for the Carluke and District Amateur League, it was bordering on unacceptable behaviour. But a ref would never call for time early in a professional game, right? Well, as it turns out, wrong.

READ MORE: Motherwell manager Stuart Kettlewell slams Kevin Clancy

Kevin Clancy’s decision to blow for time a matter of seconds after the final whistle of Motherwell’s League Cup win over East Fife on Saturday had Fir Park gaffer Stuart Kettlewell tearing his immaculately sculpted barnet out.

As the clock ticked past the 90th minute, the 3-0 winning margin Motherwell had looked as though it wouldn’t be enough to earn seeded status in the last 16 of the League Cup, with Kettlewell urging his men to go for the jugular against the tiring 10 men of the League Two outfit.

Clancy though had already seen enough - evidently not factoring in the significance of the situation - and decided to disregard the 10 substitutions and the lengthy delay to proceedings as Motherwell striker Conor Wilkinson had a nasty cut above his eye attended to, and blew for time.

Luckily for the Steelmen, the official in charge of Ross County’s clash with Kelty Hearts, Steven Maclean, did in fact play stoppage time, during which time the Staggies conceded a penalty and were pegged back to 3-3. They subsequently lost the shootout for the bonus point, and their place as a seeded team to Motherwell along with it.

It may seem on the face of it that a ref not following protocol and showing a bit of mercy to a team at the end of a low-key League Cup group game isn’t the biggest of issues when it comes to the standard of officiating in Scottish football, but it speaks to an amateurish approach to refereeing our game at even the top level.

Kettlewell said that Clancy had ‘shown a lack of respect to the competition’, and it is hard to argue. And what is worrying is that in a Premiership season that looks to have the potential to go to the wire in the various battles throughout the table, that a referee’s discretion in terms of how much time to add on to a match where one team may be losing heavily could decide a club’s fate.

Imagine if the title race, the battle for third, the top six or the relegation places came down to goal difference? A team winning by four instead of potentially five, or a team losing by a goal less than they may have had the proper time been added to a game, could feasibly have a massive knock-on effect.

READ MORE: Lennon Miller shines as Motherwell seal seeded spot in draw

Nobody wants to see games going on for hours on end, but an easy way to remove any notion of skullduggery or even simple inconsistency would be to remove the referee as the sole arbitrator of how much time is actually added at the end of the contest.

Former FA vice-chairman David Dein is a vocal backer of introducing a stop-clock to matches, with time paused whenever the ball goes out of play. The debate was raised in January when Newcastle United were accused of time-wasting their way to a win over Arsenal, in a game where the ball was in play for just 51 minutes, four minutes less than the average EPL game.

The ball being in play for such a short space of time in that match caused a major stooshie south of the border, but remarkably, it was still in play more than the average match in the Scottish Premiership at that point. 50 minutes and 42 seconds is the typical time the ball is live up here, the lowest ratio of the eight top-ranked leagues in Europe.

So, by employing a stop-clock, the amount of football the paying fans see would increase significantly (there may be an argument that is not necessarily a good thing in some cases, mind you) and it would remove the burden of keeping track from the shoulders of the referee.

As it stands, the process by which any referee adds time is far from transparent, and prone to inconsistency from official to official. There are guidelines for how much to add for substitutions, VAR delays and so on, of course, but how strictly these are followed by one referee or another clearly varies.

We are constantly being told that technology has been brought into the game in the form of VAR in order to aid our officials. Clancy’s error puts weight behind the notion that perhaps the time has come to extend that thinking to the match clock.

Despite the sneers of its critics, the Scottish Premiership is not a pub league. It shouldn’t be subject to cultural hangovers from the past, such as referees blowing early.