Battle of the statements as Norwich call-off row goes on

Michael Bailey Norwich City will have a midweek trip to Walsall next month for their rearranged fixture - after an abrasive exchange of statements continued the fall-out from Monday's postponement.

Michael Bailey

Norwich City will have a midweek trip to Walsall next month for their rearranged fixture - after an abrasive exchange of statements continued the fall-out from Monday's postponement.

The new date for the League One fixture has been confirmed as Tuesday, January 12, with a 7.45pm kick-off, after referee Mark Haywood called off the Bank Holiday fixture little more than an hour before kick-off because parts of the Bescot Stadium pitch were frozen.

There was no early warning the game could be a casualty to the weather, leaving City supporters to find out the game was off once they had completed the trip to Walsall.

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The Saddlers confirmed yesterday they completed a cancellation and abandonment form for the Football League, which is standard practice, and reiterated on the form that the game was all set to go ahead until the arrival of Norwich City's officials.

Yesterday's statement on Walsall's official website read: “Referee Mark Haywood arrived at the stadium at 11.30am. He inspected the pitch, accompanied by club secretary Roy Whalley and stadium manager Dave Storr, and stated he was happy with the state of the pitch and the progress being made. At no point did he indicate that there would be a further inspection.

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“However, following a consultation with the Norwich City manager at 1.45pm, Mr Haywood went back out on to the pitch and called the game off citing 'player safety' as the reason for his decision. This left us in an all together impossible situation with the decision totally out of our hands and we have made our feelings known to the Football League.”

However, later yesterday afternoon City confirmed the ticket details for the rearranged fixture, while their chief executive David McNally countered the Saddlers' claims.

He said: “Once again, we wish to point out the only person ultimately responsible for the decision to call off the match is the referee. Whether we agree with his decision or not is immaterial - the responsibility for deciding whether the fixture can go ahead is his and his alone.

“We are surprised and disappointed that they (Walsall) appear to be questioning his professional integrity over this matter.”

The Canaries confirmed full refunds are available for anyone with a ticket for Monday's postponed game - but only after they appealed to Walsall's better nature.

McNally added: “We are however pleased that Walsall have agreed to refund any supporters who purchased tickets for the postponed match who cannot attend the re-arranged fixture on January 12.

“They had originally contacted us this morning to say they would not be paying any refunds to anyone, but have reversed their decision after we appealed to them to reconsider.”

The latest dissatisfaction over the Canaries to the Football League comes with City also facing a forthcoming tribunal over the appointments of Paul Lambert, Ian Culverhouse and Gary Karsa from Colchester United in August, while an FA charge also hangs over the club for failing to control its players during the 21-man ruck against Brighton at Carrow Road, in November.

The rearranged fixture could leave January as an important month, with Norwich trying to overhaul Charlton Athletic, who currently occupy the second automatic promotion spot in League One, three points ahead of the Canaries but having played a game more.

After the trip to Wycombe on Saturday, Norwich welcome Exeter to Carrow Road the following weekend before they take on the Saddlers and then make the much anticipated trip to Colchester on January 16.

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