MARK HUGHES believes Craig Bellamy was right to give an invading supporter the hand-off at Old Trafford on Sunday.
The fiery Manchester City striker has been warned about his future conduct by the FA following the altercation. There will be plenty who consider Bellamy lucky to escape an improper conduct charge given the supporter, a Manchester United fan who came running onto the field immediately after Michael Owen scored a stoppage-time winner, was being held by stewards at the time.
But Hughes feels Bellamy’s actions have been vindicated.
“We viewed the incident as something and nothing,” he said.
“Craig wasn’t privy to how much time was left to enable us to get back into the game. He wanted the guy to get off as quickly as possible — and told him so in no uncertain terms. The guy has made an aggressive move towards him and Craig has put up a defensive hand and pushed the guy away. He was right to do that because you are never quite sure what is going to happen in those situations.”
Hughes is also trying to draw a line under his fury at the amount of added time ref Martin Atkinson played last Sunday although he does feel an assessment of the rules needs to take place to see if improvements to a “confusing” situation can be made.
“If you are looking at a different system where the allocation of time is taken over by someone else, maybe that would help. I am not saying I am advocating it but maybe it needs investigating.”
Martin Petrov looks set to start for City in tonight’s Carling Cup tie with Fulham, his first start of the season.
“Martin is a big part of what we are trying to do,” said Hughes.
“He has not been a negative influence and I know if I pick him from the start he will make a positive contribution.”
With Carlos Tevez carrying a slight knee injury, Hughes might not want to take any risks knowing Emmanuel Adebayor must also sit out Monday night’s Premier League encounter with West Ham and Roque Santa Cruz will not be fully fit, even if he is available.
City defender Nedum Onuoha is also ruled out for three weeks with a thigh problem.
Fulham boss Roy Hodgson is set to make wholesale changes as he attempts to juggle the competing demands of the Premier League, domestic cup competitions and the Europa League.
Hodgson is set to revert back to the second-string squad that drew 1-1 with CSKA Sofia in the Europa League last Thursday. Simon Davies, Jonathan Greening and Diomansky Kamara are all likely to get another chance to impress.
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