Stoke boss Mark Hughes rues the one that got away at Norwich City
06:30 10 March 2014
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Mark Hughes was adamant Jon Walters’ red card robbed Stoke of a chance to seal a Premier League win at Carrow Road.
Walters was dismissed for a knee-high challenge on Norwich midfielder Alex Tettey five minutes after confidently levelling from the penalty spot, when Seb Bassong impeded John Guidetti. Hughes fully expected the visitors to prevail in the closing stages in their search for what would have been only a second Premier League away win this season until Walters’ red card forced the Potters into preservation mode.
“I felt we could possibly have gone on and got maximum points after scoring the penalty but Jon’s sending off completely changed our intention,” said Hughes. “It was always going to be difficult for us but we showed a lot of character and determination, all the traits that you need to show when you are down to 10 men. We just had to dig in and show quality and character and that’s what we did and credit to the guys.”
Hughes labelled Walters’ sending off ‘harsh’ after studying the incident again following the final whistle.
“I’ve looked at it and there is contact. Jon has accepted that he did catch him but I think the ball was bouncing between two players that had their feet high,” he said. “I just think on this occasion the punishment is a little harsh for the crime – we’re looking at Jon missing three games for that. It’s deemed as serious foul play but I just think it’s one of those challenges in games where it’s a matter of millimetres between contact being made or not.
“Unfortunately for the Norwich player, Jon has caught him and he’s gone down and the referee has given a straight red. It seems a little bit hard to take, but that’s how it’s been for us just lately so I think maybe that helped us in terms of the character and the determination that we showed after that, because we weren’t to be denied.”
Hughes felt Stoke should have made much more of their first half dominance with Norwich struggling to cut out the early supply line to one-time Canary loanee Peter Crouch.
“I thought in the first half we were the team in the ascendancy and the team that had more control of the game,” said Hughes. “I thought we created a number of chances that, without being harsh on the guys, we should have converted at least one of them. If we had done we would have taken the game away from Norwich in my view. We knew there would be a reaction from Norwich in the second half but it was disappointing to concede a goal from a set-piece, although it was a decent delivery into our box and you know that if you don’t get a first contact on it there’s a likelihood you are going to concede.
“We changed things around a little bit, tried to freshen it up and got the penalty which Jon, as he always does, took responsibility for and dispatched with aplomb. It was difficult obviously when we went down to 10 men. We had to hang on to what we had but up to that point, certainly in the first half, I thought we had the better chances, more control of the game and took the game to Norwich. I think they had a couple of chances, which you expect as an away team to concede, but overall I thought we were the dominant side.”