Ref-watch: A view on Mark Clattenburg’s return to officiate Norwich City clash
Mark Clattenburg returned to the middle at St Mary's on Wednesday night, for the first time since being cleared of any wrong-doing following accusations of using inappropriate language to Chelsea's John Obi Mikel. MICHAEL BAILEY looks at how his evening went.
The most horrendous experience of Mark Clattenburg's life could finally be forgotten as he crossed the white line.
The TV cameras took in the teams – but then made sure there was a lengthy linger on the face of the night's referee at St Mary's. And then several more.
Once the action finally got under way, it was almost certainly something Clattenburg himself had been looking forward to for weeks.
Sitting in the crowd and whichever club you follow, you don't get the opportunity to pat a referee on the back or give him a cheer of support. Therefore Clattenburg had to make do with the welcome sound of derision – mostly from the hosts.
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First anger came for a foul not given, swiftly followed by a penalty claim turned down.
Indeed, the early overriding impression of Clattenburg's return seemed to be avoiding controversy at all costs – and not making any decisions in the process.
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By the 12th minute St Mary's was ringing out to 'You don't know what you're doing...' Those never really stopped.
The home fans decided they weren't in Clattenburg's favour. Ironic cheers greeted their first – and soft – free-kick. When their opening goal arrived from it, the mood momentarily softened too.
City's equaliser was all the work of players from both sides, while Nathaniel Clyne winning a free-kick for slipping on the grass may have been a case of referee rust.
Successfully dodging controversy, Clattenburg was apparently enjoying himself so much he somehow found four minutes of added time to keep the fun going as long as possible.
But by the end he was treated to the usual boos any referee expects. A normal night, the usual welcome and farewell.
And with that, Clattenburg was probably happier than ever to be back.