Aston Villa’s Joe Bennett should have seen red, insists Norwich City boss Chris Hughton

Aston Villa's Joe Bennett, centre, protests his innocence to referee Kevin Friend after he has a pen

Aston Villa's Joe Bennett, centre, protests his innocence to referee Kevin Friend after he has a penalty awarded against him. Picture: Paul Chesterton / Focus Images - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Referee Kevin Friend came under fire from Norwich City boss Chris Hughton after Aston Villa defender Joe Bennett escaped a red card at Carrow Road.

Left-back Bennett was sent off in the two sides' Premier League meeting at Villa Park in October after picking up two yellow cards.

He was at risk of an unwanted double when he was booked by the Leicestershire official after just 17 minutes in Saturday's rematch at Carrow Road, for wrestling Wes Hoolahan to the floor. Bennett committed further shirt-pulling offences against Grant Holt and Robert Snodgrass in the first half, before bringing down Snodgrass to concede a second-half penalty. But he escaped a second yellow and stayed on the field to help Villa to a 2-1 win. Said Hughton: 'Irrespective of the penalty, the lad Bennett should not have been on the park at the end.

'He had already had a yellow card and he committed another two or three fouls after that.

'Then he gives away the penalty and is still on the pitch. Certainly that is something the referee has got wrong.'

Villa striker Christian Benteke was another who may have been fortunate to complete 90 minutes after grabbing City defender Sébastien Bassong by the neck in the second half. He was shown only a yellow card. Hughton admitted he had not seen the Benteke incident and was undecided over whether the Canaries should have had a first-half penalty when Matthew Lowton blocked a cross by Anthony Pilkington with his arm.

'I'm not sure. I know it has hit him in the arm area but whether it is a penalty or not I don't know,' he said.

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Any sense of injustice over the officials has to be put to one side, however, as City prepare for the final two matches of the Premier League season in a perilous position.

'I'm massively disappointed and frustrated because I don't think it's a game we deserved to lose. I thought we were very good in the first half,' said Hughton.

'For large periods of the game we kept them quiet, particularly Benteke, who is in really good form at the moment, but we conceded two poor goals.'

Snodgrass departed on 86 minutes with what City hope is merely cramp, while they hope to have defender Michael Turner available after missing two games with a groin injury.

With only a Grant Holt penalty to show for their efforts against Villa, City's lack of goals came under the spotlight again, but Hughton rejected the idea that they were not ambitious enough in the transfer window – they have since signed January target Ricky van Wolfswinkel for £8.5m from Sporting Lisbon.

'No, we pushed as hard as we could in January and we have to work around what the circumstances are and the finances are,' he said. 'We pushed very hard, it didn't happen and what we need to do is crack on now and make sure we finish these last couple of games in a way we would like.'