Referee Darren Drysdale has been given overwhelming support on social media after he was photographed confronting Irish midfielder Alan Judge during a game on Tuesday night.

The match official came close to headbutting the player during a heated exchange at the end of the match.

​Judge, 32, was playing for Ipswich – former champions of England, who have fallen on hard times and are now in the third tier of English football.

​They were drawing 0-0 at home with lowly Northampton when Judge was booked for diving in the penalty box. He ranted at the referee, who squared up to him intimidatingly before the pair were broken up by Northampton’s Lloyd Jones.

​After the incident Ipswich’s Flynn Downes was sent off for violent conduct.

​The Football Association is investigating Drysdale’s contact but on Twitter he has been praised for standing up to footballers.

​Several people on social media compared him favourably to retired Italian referee Pierluigi Collina, who was famous for his bald head and intimidating presence.