Norwich City robbed by referee’s bad decision

There is little to add, really, to what in all likelihood has been discussed in thousands of households and pubs across Norfolk over the weekend.

Namely that City were robbed of two precious points that would have propelled them up to fourth place in the Championship table

For 45 minutes on Saturday, the Canaries were excellent. They controlled the first half with some incisive attacking football and they caused a shoddy Reading back four all sorts of problems whenever they moved forward.

Chris Martin and Grant Holt, in particular, were proving too difficult to handle at times, and both City strikers frequently found themselves running in behind the opposition defence and bearing down on goal.

Russell Martin and Holt had each scored very well-taken goals to earn City a fully-deserved lead, while at the other end of the pitch they were maintaining their defensive shape well and restricting their hosts to precious little in the final third.

Even though the home side managed to claw themselves back into the contest, Norwich were playing with such confidence and efficiency that it came as no surprise when they soon restored their two-goal cushion through Chris Martin’s free-kick.

It was a dream start for City, who were playing so well that it got to the stage where the home supporters had already started voicing their disproval at what was unfolding in front of them and no doubt wondering how heavy their team’s defeat would eventually be.

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And then the referee ruined the game with as poor a decision as you’ll see for a long time.

Not only did Holt appear to be trying to stop himself from clattering into Ian Harte, but any contact that was actually made was virtually insignificant.

I question what the referee thought he saw. It might have been a foul, granted. But surely simply awarding a free-kick would have been sufficient punishment? Even a yellow card would have seemed ridiculously harsh. But a straight red? It was almost laughable.

Naturally, it handed Reading the golden opportunity they were craving to turn the game round, as without it they were clearly fast heading for a thumping.

The second half was one-way traffic in Reading’s favour and eventually City’s resistance broke. It was cruel. It was undeserved. And – although for completely different reasons – it was similar to the game at Millwall four days earlier, and a particularly bitter pill to swallow.

The officials who eventually sit down and review what is certain to be an appeal by the club to overturn Holt’s red card may indeed ensure that justice is done and pave the way for the City skipper to take his place in the side and lead the line in the next three matches.

What they can’t do, though, is hand City back the two points that one abysmal refereeing decision ultimately cost them.

• NEIL’S MAN OF THE MATCH – JOHN RUDDY: Grant Holt was fast heading for the award until his night’s work was farcically cut short, Chris Martin looked sharp and gave the opposition plenty to think about, and many of the City players were on top of their game and frequently caught the eye. But it’s the big ‘keeper who gets my vote. It would have been a travesty if City had returned home from the Madejski Stadium with nothing to show for their considerable efforts, but they have Ruddy to thank for helping the team to hang on by making several excellent saves.