Suffice to say, the season of good will towards all men was well and truly over this week when it came to City boss Chris Hughton and referee Mark Clattenburg.
Yesterday’s 2-1 defeat at West Ham United condemned the Canaries to their fourth straight Premier League defeat.
And whilst the drop zone still remains some way distant, City would have been desperately hoping for a bit of renewed forward momentum to follow the New Year’s Day trip to the East End.
But already denied the services of both skipper Grant Holt and his stand-in Steve Morison through injury, so their cause was not helped by the award of a second minute penalty to the likewise, stuttering Hammers.
Six of one and half a dozen of the other would be most people’s interpretation of the clash between Ryan Bennett and Hammers’ Winston Reid; Clattenburg, however, viewed Bennett as the offending party and his decision then allowed Mark Noble to open the scoring from the penalty spot.
Rocked back on the heels and without the attacking presence of either a Holt or a Morison, so it was always going to be a long, hard day at the office once the day’s official had pointed to the penalty spot.
“I accept that Ryan [Bennett] had the lad by the shirt – but it something that you will see, week in, week out,” said Hughton afterwards, as the Canaries slipped back to 12th on the back of this latest festive reverse.
They have, in fairness, only lost by the odd goal on all four occasions now and there is little disgrace in losing by such a margin to the likes of a Chelsea or a Manchester City.
But Hughton is well aware that momentum is everything in this league. And nor do you want to find yourself sucked back into the relegation fray having worked so hard to lift yourself out of it in the autumn. Hence his frustration at Clattenburg taking centre stage at Upton Park with three, big penalty decisions not going Norwich’s way.
“It’s not as if Reid has got away from him and he’s trying to pull him closer to him or to stop him getting away,” added Hughton, as a right royal tussle went against the visitors.
“There’s contact from Reid. His arm, forearm, his elbow – or whatever – was on his throat, against his chest so there’s a bit of each. But I accept that he’s got hold of his shirt.
“But if we’re going to give penalties for that, then we’re going to see an awful lot of penalties. And there isn’t anybody that isn’t going to tell me that Alexander Tettey wasn’t pole-axed in the run-up to their second.”
A familiar refrain of late given the manner in which that Vincent Kompany went clean through Bradley Johnson en route to Manchester City’s significant second strike on Saturday. Luck, in short, has been in short supply of late as the Canaries prepare for an FA Cup ‘breather’ in the shape of this weekend’s East Anglian derby clash with Peterborough.
“Were we on the wrong side of some decisions today? Absolutely we were,” he told the BBC.
Circumstances hadn’t helped with the injuries to Holt and Morison and the suspension to Johnson. City had, said Hughton, to ‘go bigger’ to combat West Ham’s aerial threat – hence the opportunity for Bennett.
That said, the Canary chief wasn’t overly-impressed with the way that Norwich dealt with the hosts’ physical edge in a “poor” first period.
“If we were able to put the performance that we did in the second-half into the first-half, then it would have been a far closer game,” he insisted.
Inevitably January brought the transfer window question; almost as inevitably, the Canary chief was giving next-to-nothing away.
“We’re working as hard as everybody else is, but that work is very much done behind closed doors. And if the timing’s right and it’s appropriate to bring a player in in a certain position then we will do that.”
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