Terri Westgate: I didn't expect to be pining for VAR again
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
On Saturday the scene was set perfectly for the first home game of Norwich’s Championship season.
A warm and sunny August afternoon, an exciting new signing straight into the team, and even a Norfolk Lioness - a true sporting hero of the summer - to bring out the matchball and start the first rendition of On The Ball City!
The early kick off time caused by the television schedule the only element to disrupt the matchday routine. And the previous weekend’s disappointing performance and result at Cardiff were still playing on people’s minds. But as Norwich are notoriously slow starters, an opening day loss doesn’t usually cause panic.
Personally, I am one of those who preach you shouldn’t even glance at the league table until ten matches have been played, so it was far too early to make fatalistic predictions, particularly in such a turbulent league.
So once Lauren Hemp had conducted the crowd, the whistle was blown, there was much hope around the stadium that our first win of the season was about to unfold.
One of the reasons the Canaries are again favourites to bounce back up to the Premier League is the ever-growing gulf between the riches of the top flight and those below.
Despite being the worst of the top 20 teams last season, you are still expected to have the players and the resources to excel once relegated.
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The early exchanges seemed to indicate this, as Wigan, who were fresh from League One, were kept on the back foot.
Yet it was the side from Lancashire who broke the deadlock, as James McClean ran into the box without a defender in sight to put the ball passed Tim Krul.
The scoreline seemed to rattle the home team, and the confidence began to ebb away as we headed towards the break. There was even a smattering of boos as the players left the field, as if some had just fallen back into old habits from last season.
The second half saw City take control of the game again, and the introduction of Onel Hernández, who had been proudly displaying his Canary tattoo to the crowd when warming up, seemed to create instant impact.
His direct approach of running at defenders and getting the ball into the box was causing problems. Not long after his entrance the equaliser came, with my player of the match Max Aarons finishing off the move.
Our Starman was also involved in the most controversial moment of the game, as we began bombarding the Wigan penalty area towards the end of the 90 minutes.
From my position in D Block of the Lower Barclay I could clearly see the studs up tackle which left our rightback writhing in agony on the pitch, and yet none of the officials saw anything wrong.
Watching it back in slow motion after the game made me wince, as did the photo of Max’s shin showing the scars. Before the match I had been revelling in the fact there was no VAR at this level, and now I was less smug.
But according to the referee there was no foul, no card and no penalty, and we had to play out the match without Aarons as he hobbled back to the dressing room. Pukki almost nicked the winner, but his effort rebounded off the crossbar and we had to settle for a single point.
As we made our exit from the stands, we tried to remember the last time the team had won a competitive match, and it took a few guesses before the Burnley home match was recalled.
Hopefully we’ll break that duck soon, once the team settles into a line-up and a rhythm. There may be a niggling concern that this year’s campaign to challenge for promotion won’t be as straightforward as the previous two. But there are many months to go before our fate will be determined, and it is still all in our own hands.