A poor refereeing performance by Gavin Ward marred Latics’ 1-0 defeat against the Canaries at Carrow Road.
Referee Ward had already enraged the wrath of both sets of supporters during an erratic display when he awarded a late controversial penalty to Norwich with the match heading towards a stalemate.
Substitute Callum Connolly was adjudged to have fouled Teemu Pukki in the box, but few of Latics’ fans expected Ward to award a spot-kick for the challenge.
Norwich substitute Mario Vrancic stepped up to convert the penalty and move them up to fifth in the Championship table and see Latics slip down to eighth.
Paul Cook retained the same starting line-up from last Friday’s 1-0 win over Bristol City, with recent injury casualties Will Grigg and Callum McManaman returning to the bench.
Latics had an early chance when Cedric Kipre rose high above the Canaries defence but headed wide of the target from Lee Evans’ corner.
But as the game progressed Norwich took control with Christian Walton denying Marco Stiepermann.
A sloppy back pass from Chey Dunkley then sent Pukki clear but the big defender got back to make a goal saving challenge, although the home fans thought it should have been a penalty.
In a game of few clear cut chances both teams often cancelled each other out, although the Canaries did have the lion’s share of possession.
The hosts created several chances early in the second half when Walton again denied Stiepermann and Alex Tettey fired wide of the target.
Latics defended stubbornly and the game looked to be heading towards stalemate until referee Ward intervened in the 86th minute.
Substitute Connolly went shoulder to shoulder with Pukki in the box, but there was limited contact and despite the Latics players’ appeals the referee awarded the spot-kick which effectively won the game for the hosts.
The referee may have felt that he should have awarded a penalty in the first half to Norwich but this was no excuse for such a poor decision in awarding the penalty.
Cook said after the game,
“I did think their penalty in the first half was a penalty, you’ve got to be truthful about these things. “But once he hasn’t given that, we always possibly thought the next opportunity he got, he would genuinely give Norwich a penalty.”
Latics game plan had been to press the Canaries high up the pitch and for the most part this was successful but they had failed to create many opportunities in front of goal.
Cook will be looking to quickly bounce back against Swansea City on Tuesday night, with Will Grigg and Callum McManaman likely starters, as they try to maintain their excellent home record.