City chief Paul Lambert was again left frustrated by the man in the middle during yesterday’s 1-1 draw with MK Dons, after a certain Kevin Friend denied the league leaders an obvious penalty with eight minutes remaining.
It was a frustrating afternoon in many ways, with another poor refereeing performance adding to the Carrow Road irritation, but Chrissy Martin’s 90th minute free-kick will at least keep the Canaries buoyant ahead of Tuesday’s trip to Leyton Orient.
If they had been awarded that spot-kick, however, when Aaron Wilbraham clearly handballed Gary Doherty’s cut back, who knows what might have happened?
With the wind in their sails, they may have gone on to claim all three points, and Lambert couldn’t hide his disappointment afterwards.
“He wouldn’t have looked out of place in the NBA,” said the Norwich boss afterwards. “Dear oh dear, I don’t know – Michael Jordan couldn’t have done better.
“His hand was about nine feet up and the only thing he hasn’t done is catch it. How he hasn’t seen it I don’t know and the fourth official has told me that it was a penalty.
“It was one of those where everybody in the ground could see it was a penalty except the officials – it beggars belief. You get frustrated but the way we kept on going was great and the lads have got a never-say-die attitude.”
Paul Ince’s Dons certainly adopted a physical approach and Wilbraham was, of course, sent for an early bath for a foul on Oli Johnson in the dying moments. Add another seven bookings for MK to the mix and you start to get the picture.
But Lambert remained philosophical when asked if he had any complaints with the Dons’ style of ‘play’.
“I can’t remember the bookings, there were that many! But it’s part of the game, some you get and some you don’t.”
But while the Scot’s opposite number was gracious enough to admit that the Wilbraham handball incident should have resulted in a penalty for the table-toppers, he hit out at referee Friend for being too eager at dishing out the bookings.
“It was a definite penalty, I’m not someone to sit here and say I didn’t see it – it was a blatant penalty and he’s lucky to get away with it,” said Ince, who was, of course, nicknamed the ‘Guv’nor’ during his playing days.
“But I didn’t see it as a dirty game, just a game with two teams trying to play good football. We are not a dirty side.
“We are a little bit petulant at times, talking ourselves into bookings, but we do not go out to do people. Sometimes you’re going to make fouls, that’s football, but you pick people up and get on with it.
“For some reason every time we made a tackle it was a booking. Every time there was a foul there seems to be a yellow card and that’s not right.
“To me the game is becoming too soft. I watch a lot of football in the Premier League and the Championship and it’s just the same, games are stop start with people getting booked all the time for no reason.
“It ruins the game as a spectacle because there are players out there who have got to be careful because they are on a yellow card.”
Ince also offered his opinion on Wilbraham’s red card for a second bookable offence and I think it would be fair to say that Mr K Friend will not be appearing on too many Christmas Card lists in either Norfolk or Milton Keynes this year.
“The sending off was harsh – if you’re trying to avoid a player running beyond you and you clip his legs it’s not always intentional, it’s just a free-kick. We’re getting these bookings every week and I don’t agree with it.”
Don’t go too far away tomorrow as we’ll have all the news and views from the Colney press conference ahead of that Tuesday night clash at Brisbane Road.