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Clattenburg dominates draw

They say that the best refereeing performances are the ones that you don't notice, but Mark Clattenburg was never going to be that lucky on his return to Premier League action.

He spent most of his first match back in the middle since being accused of making a racist remark to Jon Obi Mikel during the Chelsea versus Manchester United match on 28 October with the jeers of the St Mary's crowd ringing in his ears.

And he also antagonised Norwich by failing to spot a hand-ball offence by Rickie Lambert before the Southampton forward scored the opening goal.

But it is a poor game when the referee is the central figure, and this one died on its feet in the second half.

Clattenburg was clearly not out to win any popularity contests, earning chants of "You're not fit to referee" from the home fans after a series of decisions that seemed to go mostly against Southampton.

But Saints fans were overjoyed when the first free-kick he awarded in their favour, after 32 minutes, led to a goal – and one he should probably have disallowed. Adam Lallana flighted the ball in from the left, and it hit Lambert's arm before rebounding back off Grant Holt and dropping kindly for Lambert to poke in his sixth goal of the season.

However, the home crowd's joy was short-lived as Norwich levelled in the final minute of the first half thanks to a dreadful error by goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga.

Clattenburg awarded a foul for Nathaniel Clyne's challenge on Robert Snodgrass on the right and the latter bent the ball round a poorly set-up wall and under Gazzaniga's dive – the young goalkeeper's second costly error in three home games.

Jason Puncheon forced a diving save from Mark Bunn with a curling left-foot shot as Southampton tried to restore a lead, but they were grateful to Gazzaniga, who blocked with his legs when Holt worked clear of defenders to meet a corner with a firm header. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent