Referee’s argument just does not wash

The main talking point from last Saturday’s encounter with Hull was probably the refereeing decision that denied the Canaries a blatant penalty kick and what in all likelihood would have been the chance to secure all three points.

I refer, of course, to the incident when City full-back Russell Martin cut inside with the ball from the right flank and forced his way inside the box. Hull left-back Andy Dawson was almost ripping Martin’s shirt off his back as he tried to halt his progress. Martin though, stayed on his feet, and accordingly the referee and his assistant were happy enough that there was no foul committed.

Firstly, we can only applaud Martin’s honesty in staying upright in the hope that he could get his shot away. Very few players these days would have done likewise. However, on reflection, if he could rewind the clock I think he would probably have gone to ground. Because this is the point. Martin was clearly being fouled. And in such circumstances there is absolutely nothing wrong in going to ground to convince the referee that you have been fouled. It’s a completely different story when there is no contact and players fall over as though they’ve been shot. That is plain cheating. There’s a big difference.

There is nothing in the rulebook that says you must stay on your feet at all times, and there is certainly no shame whatsoever in going to ground if you’re being fouled. A foul is a foul. And if going over helps convince the referee, then so be it. You do it.

If Martin had gone over, there’d have been very few, if any complaints at all from the Hull players I can tell you. Because they knew that they’d got away with that one for sure.

Which brings me to my second point, and what on earth the referee and his assistant were watching anyway. Irrespective of whether or not Martin stayed on his feet, it was as clear a penalty kick as you’re likely to see. The ref looked at his assistant, the assistant looked back at the ref. One of them, if not the pair of them must have seen it. Yet both completely bottled it. Forget any advantage being allowed. That shouldn’t even enter the equation. And as for the referee’s explanation afterwards, when he revealed to Paul Lambert that the reason he didn’t award Norwich a penalty was because Martin had started the shirt-pulling in the first place, well, I’m sorry but that simply doesn’t wash.

Because if Martin had initially pulled the Hull defender’s shirt, then why didn’t the referee award them a free-kick instead of allowing play to continue and Martin to continue to bear down on their goal?

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I know they say that it’s swings and roundabouts and that decisions like that even themselves out over the course of a season. But they can also cost a team so dearly. And it’s precisely decisions like that that drives players, managers, coaches and supporters stark raving bonkers.


It’s individual moments of brilliance that gets supporters up off their seats and what makes football so special.

And we very nearly had one of those moments at the KC Stadium last week.

When Wes Hoolahan received the ball just outside the box and started to weave his way towards goal, for those who are old enough to remember I’m sure that it would have instantly reminded them of Tottenham’s Ricky Villa’s wonder-goal in the 1981 FA Cup Final replay against Manchester City.

Hoolahan can do that sort of thing. He must have beaten five or six players within the space of 15 yards (I think he beat one of those defenders at least three times) as he edged ever closer to goal. But unlike the great Argentinean, he couldn’t quite shift the ball out of his stance adequately enough to get his shot away. It was such as shame, because if he had finished off that mesmerising piece of dribbling excellence with a goal, we’d have been talking it about for many a year.

Incidentally, when I was at Everton, four or five of us used to travel to training every day. We’d pick each other up a various points on the journey. Paul Power – Manchester City’s captain in that 1981 FA Cup Final – was one of them.

He was one of the defenders that Ricky Villa turned inside out for that goal, and if you watch it you can see Paul bent over with his arms and head hanging in utter dejection as the ball hits the back of the net. Naturally he was reminded of that goal on numerous occasions whenever we were bored on the way to training.


It’s terrific news that City have managed to sign Sam Vokes and Dani Pacheco on emergency loans for the Championship run-in.

As the old saying goes, you can never have too many good strikers.

With injury concerns over Aaron Wilbraham and Chris Martin also having been sidelined for the past few weeks, it meant that the Canaries were just a couple of unfortunate knocks away, to any of their remaining strikers, from the season potentially ending in tatters.

It would have been unbelievably cruel to have come this far, and with City having put themselves in the fantastic position they currently occupy, for the rug to then be pulled from under them on account of a bit of bad luck.

Now, though, City have covered themselves against that happening.

Vokes has always acquitted himself well whenever he has played against Norwich. And as for Pacheco, well, anyone who plays for the under-21 team of the world champions and who is known in his native land as “The Assassin” will surely be a good addition to the squad.