MARK Hughes has backed the clampdown on time-wasting for the new season.

Referees are being encouraged to sanction offenders from early on in games as part of the latest rule changes.

It has been a frequent bugbear at Valley Parade with opponents looking to kill the clock and frustrate the home crowd.

As City’s League Two campaign swings into action this afternoon against Doncaster, Hughes hopes the tougher stance will be enforced.

He said: “If we’re behind, God forbid, in a game at home and teams are trying to block us out, all the dark arts come out.

“There was a mention of them trying to address that. We’ll see how long that lasts.

“It’s a difficult job and every year they get given new directives and things to clamp down on.

“We’ve had the referees in and gone through their thoughts in terms of the new season which we do every year.

“It’s not easy but they always do the job with the best intentions, so we have to respect that.”

Officials have also been told to adopt a higher threshold for penalising contact in challenges and consider how much contact there was and the consequences.

Persistent holding at set-pieces is another area where officials will be encouraged to take a tough stance.

Scottish referee Bobby Madden will come under the spotlight at City in his first game in England.

Hughes is happy to see the former FIFA official, who has plenty of big-match experience from over two decades north of the border, taking charge for an occasion when more than 18,000 fans are expected.

“That’s why he’s got our game,” he added.

“It’s great that he sees his future at this level. Maybe he wants a change of scenery, I’m not sure about the circumstances.

“Maybe he wants to progress to the top level as he was in Scotland, so I’m sure he’ll have a good game.”