Sports FOOTBALL Norwich 1-1 Wigan Frustated Smith scolds referee

Norwich 1-1 Wigan Frustated Smith scolds referee

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Dean Smith turned against referee Matt Donoghue after Norwich’s sluggish start to the Championship campaign continued with a 1–1 draw against newly promoted Wigan.

Disappointed by defeat on the first day in Cardiff, Norwich dominated the East Anglia sun for a long time, but could not count on their superiority. Max Aarons called off James McClean’s first goal and was put out by a strong challenge from Tom Naylor as he looked for his second goal of the game. Naylor received the ball, but Smith felt the challenge was over the top.

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“The referee was looking straight down the barrel of that ball and the fact that he can’t see it worries me,” said the Norwich manager. “It was a scandalous decision for me – the fact that Max has a nasty shin wound tells you everything you need to know. It was a terrible challenge. I’ll tell you something, in my playing days, when the referees were a lot more lenient, you couldn’t get away with that. You couldn’t go on top like this. It should have been a red card and a penalty.”

Norwich were at the forefront from the start and maintained their dominance through most of the first period, even after falling behind. Teemu Pukki missed a great opportunity to calm the hosts’ nerves in just 10 minutes by beating Curtis Tilt on the edge of the penalty area, but shooting right close to the far post.

A beautiful staccato pass from Chile’s Marcelino Nunez brought Milot Rashica into play, but his cross over Ben Amos lacked power and the ball was cleared. The one-way traffic continued as Aarons fired from a low pile, narrowly missing the target, and Jacob Sorensen and Nunez came close, but it was Wigan who stunned the packed Carrow Road by taking the lead.

Tim Krul made a good stop to stop Callum Lang after Sorensen was caught in possession, but he was powerless to stop McClean from close range after the Irishman was substituted by Will Keane’s slide rule. In the end, it was a well-played goal, but from Norwich’s point of view, it was a self-inflicted blow as Ben Gibson presented the chance for a bad pass in the danger zone.

Wigan players in the background celebrating the first leg. Photograph: Joe Giddens/PA.

“The lads deserve some credit after a really strong performance,” said Wigan manager Lim Richardson. “I would say that in the end it was a fair result. We’ve come a long way since we only had three players and we know it’s going to be a big problem this season. But this is a challenge that we are all ready for.”

A good stop by Krul at the near post kept Josh Magennis from a 2-0 lead early in the second period before Norwich quickly began putting pressure on a side that had been two divisions below them last season. And after seeing defender Dimitris Giannoulis leave the field with a serious right ankle injury, Dean Smith’s team deservedly regained their positions in the 62nd minute.

They deftly moved the ball over the edge of the court from the left, with Rashika eventually setting up overlapping Aarons to drill the ball decisively past Amos.

Max Aarons leaves with a Norwich equalizer.
Max Aarons leaves with a Norwich equalizer. Photograph: Joe Giddens/PA.

With Wigan staunchly defending, Norwich had to work hard to open up another chance and it wasn’t until the 82nd minute that they bonded again. Pukka’s curling effort looked about to start, but he hit the bottom of the crossbar and bounced off the line before the danger was finally cleared.

The hosts had 10 minutes of stoppage time to play, but failed to carve out another decent debut and, in the end, were forced to settle for a fraction of the points.

“I think they won one point and we lost two,” Smith said. “We kept them for long periods and had a better chance. We had 22 attempts, and with our mistakes we gave them two chances. If we had played like this against Cardiff last week, I think we would have won by a factor of three or four.”

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