London - Mark Clattenburg probably hoped for a gentle re-introduction to Barclays Premier League refereeing on Wednesday night. He did not get it.Taking charge of a match for the first time since being wrongly accused of racially abusing John Obi Mikel, the official missed a crucial handball in the lead up to Southampton taking the lead, before being targeted with cries of ‘you don’t know what you’re doing’ and ‘you’re not fit to referee’ from Saints supporters as Norwich fought back to draw.
It all started so well for Clattenburg, as he was given a standing ovation during his pre-match warm-up. But little did he know how feelings towards him would change.
How the referee would fare on his return to frontline action would have been the last thing on the minds the two managers, Nigel Adkins of Southampton and Norwich’s Chris Hughton. Both sides went into the game in promising form.
Since emerging victorious from ‘El Sackico’ against Queens Park Rangers 12 days ago, Southampton swept Newcastle aside on Sunday to keep Adkins in a job - for now. Likewise, Norwich have gone seven games unbeaten - a run that has included wins over Arsenal, Manchester United and Tottenham.Hughton’s glee was tempered somewhat before kick-off with the news that first-choice goalkeeper John Ruddy will miss at least three months as he prepares to have surgery on a thigh problem.
Norwich created the first opportunity, goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga producing an excellent save to stop Anthony Pilkington’s effort in the fifth minute.Eight minutes later, Clattenburg made his first major decision, waving away Southampton’s claims for a penalty after Adam Lallana went down under pressure from Sebastien Bassong.
The Saints skipper then went within inches of putting his side ahead with a spectacular volley when his sweet strike from Lambert’s arrowing pass flew just over Mark Bunn’s bar.But the home side only had to wait seven more minutes to take the lead - but it came in controversial circumstances, with Clattenburg at the centre of it. Lallana swung in a free-kick from the left, Grant Holt made a hash of his attempted defensive header before the ball clearly hit Lambert on the arm.
However, Clattenburg ignored Norwich’s appeal for handball before Lambert took advantage of the uncertainty to prod home from close range.Gaston Ramirez went close to doubling the home side’s lead with curling free-kick that flew narrowly wide of Bunn’s far post.
But on the stroke of half-time, Norwich dragged themselves level, thanks in part to Clattenburg. The referee awarded Hughton’s side a free-kick on the edge of the area for Nathaniel Clyne’s challenge on Snodgrass - and the Norwich midfielder struck a shot that somehow went through Gazzaniga and into the back of the net. Clattenburg was treated to renditions of ‘You don’t know what you’re doing’, from home supporters, who had grown frustrated at the number of decisions that had gone Norwich’s way.
Clyne made a superb tackle to deny Pilkington in the 60th minute as Norwich started the second half with renewed vigour, before Gazzaniga made up for his first-half error with a brilliant save from Holt header.
Jason Puncheon then saw his low powerful drive well saved by Bunn as Southampton were denied the win that would have lifted them out of the bottom three.