Paul Lambert blasted match official Michael Oliver after his horror show on Saturday.

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The 25-year-old turned the game on its head when, with City 3-1 up and half-time approaching, he sent off skipper Grant Holt for a foul on Ian Harte – TV replays weren’t needed to prove that he got it badly wrong.

Reading clawed their way back into the game to claim a point, but even then Mr Oliver wasn’t finished: he took no action when Jem Karacan left Korey Smith in a heap after a robust challenge, and after Lambert left his technical area, walked past Reading’s and down the touchline to check on his young midfielder’s welfare, he sent the City boss to the stands.

Lambert described Oliver’s performance as pathetic, and said the official – who in August became the youngest man to take control of a Premier League match – was too inexperienced for the occasion.

It was the Holt decision which set the ball rolling.

“It’s pathetic,” said Lambert. “I’ve seen it about 19 times. It’s maybe a foul, but never a sending off – pathetic.

“And Holt was on fire, him and (Chris) Martin up top caused no end of problems and to send him off... incredible.

“At 11 v 11 we will score again. I don’t mind getting beat, I don’t mind right decisions but that was pathetic that.”

“It was bizarre, honestly. How many Norwich fans came – 1,300? You can go and ask every one of them what they thought. People pay g ood money to come and watch us. A lot of money to come and see that? Shocking, shocking... it was shocking.”

Lambert’s comments could land him in trouble with the FA – last April he was fined £1,000 and incurred a one-game touchline ban after comments he made to referee Eddie Ilderton after a controversial defeat at Tranmere.

However, he insisted his own dismissal was also unwarranted – and that the referee did not tell him the reason.

“He never told me,” Lambert said. “I just wanted to see if he (Smith) was okay.

“All I went down for was to see if Korey was alright because his knee was sore. I never said a word, never did anything wrong, I just went down there to make sure he was okay. It was the fourth official actually – I thought they were shocking, really shocking.

“I asked him what I was getting sent off for and he said, ‘I’ll tell you later’, so I must be going to have a drink with him. I would love to know what I’m being sent off for – I’m sure he will be making that up.”

Clearly, the issue of Oliver’s age and experience rankled with Lambert.

“How old is he, 14? 25? That sums it up,” he said. “He can go away to work in his kindergarten or wherever he works – he will probably get that wrong as well.

“If you are going to give us a referee make sure you give us one that’s experienced enough to do the job. The game is too big, far, far too big. We are not guinea pigs to anybody.

“If you are not good enough to do it, don’t do it. The game is too big for decisions like that. It’s not just in our game – I have seen games where he has done it before.”

City will almost certainly appeal against Holt’s dismissal, which means a three-game ban and would see him miss the home games against Leeds and Ipswich and the trip to Derby on December 4.

As Lambert said, the referee’s performance, and its consequences, will dominate, but for 45 minutes City played as well as they have in some time, goals from Russell Martin, Holt and Chris Martin putting them in control – and for the second-half they battled manfully against an almost constant barrage of attacks from Reading.

“It was top-drawer,” said Lambert. “Brilliant. Terrific finish (by Holt), Chrissy’s free-kick – he always hits the target – and Russell Martin’s I thought was excellent. But the referee will get the headlines for an absolute horror.

“They were brilliant, they really were first class against a team that’s really good, a team that had a good result against Cardiff in midweek –but we could have been playing here until the year 2020 and we still wouldn’t get a decision.

“The football we played was as good as we have played and when you have 11 v 11 the lads are on fire. Grant with Chrissy, I thought the two of them were unplayable at times. They were excellent.”

There was an inevitability about the second-half, when Reading’s bombardment was rewarded with goals by Noel Hunt and Shane Long, who tucked away a penalty after he had been fouled by Simon Lappin – a decision with which Lambert had no complaints.

But a combination of stout defending and John Ruddy’s heroics in goal saw City hang on.

“They are a really good side, take nothing away from Reading,” said Lambert. “But the point may be huge, it might be an astronomical point for us.

“The players are disappointed, but there is no need to be for what they have done. I am absolutely delighted with them the way they performed, kept on going, threw their bodies on the line, a great desire – and we are still in the mix.

“It was a terrific performance.”

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