Alex Neil left stunned by Gary O’Neil’s red card in Norwich City’s 3-1 Premier League defeat at Stoke City
PUBLISHED: 22:39 13 January 2016 | UPDATED: 09:23 14 January 2016
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Alex Neil admitted he was stunned by Gary O’Neil’s needless red card in Norwich City’s 3-1 Premier League defeat at Stoke City on Wednesday night.
O’Neil will miss the next three games after a rash first half sending-off for careering through the back of Ibrahim Afellay.
“Listen he knows he has done wrong. Me slating him in public is not going to help that,” said Neil.
“Can I understand what he has done? No, basically. It was just a bad decision. The ball is going out aimlessly near the half-way line. I don’t think there was any sort of flashpoints before that which riled him up and I think I was as surprised as much as anybody else to see that tackle going in.
“There was no defending it. It was certainly a sending-off. Gary has come in and apologised to his team-mates at half-time. For an experienced player, if I was to pick anyone in our squad that wouldn’t do that it would probably be Gary O’Neil. That is completely out of character and for him to make that decision in such an important game for us was silly to say the least.
“Did it cost us the game? Well it didn’t help us in any way, shape or form. Put it that way. It made our task a lot more difficult. Listen he knows he has done wrong. He will miss three games now. It is disappointing for all concerned. It has not helped our cause here and it won’t do to have an experienced player missing for the next three games.”
Neil was in no doubt O’Neil’s rush of blood tipped the game firmly in Stoke’s favour with Jonathan Walters opening the scoring just after half-time. Jonny Howson levelled with a stunning 20-yard strike but Joselu and a Ryan Bennett own goal sealed the Canaries’ fate.
“I felt up to that point it was a relatively even game, and if anything we had shaded it,” said Neil.
“I thought we had a real good chance with Ryan Bennett when Jack Butland went to his left-hand side. We looked threatening, we were pleased with how the game was going and that was a big, big turning point. It was an advantage they took.
“We go the equaliser with a great strike from Jonny Howson and I felt Stoke were getting a bit agitated, you could hear the fans getting a bit frustrated and then we concede the second one in and around our box when we need to apply pressure. From that point onwards it becomes a really tough task.”