Fuming Neil Warnock has accused match official Kevin Johnson of allowing the opposition captain to referee the game after a disputed spot-kick call cost Rotherham United the chance of priceless points in their battle to beat the Championship drop.
A 1-0 defeat at Reading on Tuesday night saw the Millers slip six points adrift of safety and midfielder Richie Smallwood was booked for diving in the penalty area when the score was 0-0.
“I thought (Royals centre-half) Paul McShane was reffing the game at one stage,” manager Warnock blasted. “I thought he needed only a whistle. But fair play to him if the referee lets you surround him.”
Smallwood went down after a 41st-minute challenge from Jake Cooper and even Reading observers felt a spot-kick should have been awarded by Somerset man in the middle Johnson.
“For me, it was a certain penalty,” Warnock said. “We have watched it time and time again. It wasn’t simulation. I thought that decision summed up the referee’s night. I think he has had better nights.
“We had two lads booked for shirt-pulling. They have a lad who pulls a shirt and the referee forgot.”
Rotherham, still looking for their first goal under their new boss, were beaten by a second-half strike from Hal Robson-Kanu after midfielder Paul Green dithered on the edge of the area and gave up possession.
“I am very disappointed,” Warnock said. “We are really working hard. We have lost it to a mistake and we should know better, Greeny should clear that on the edge of the box, but we have been punished.
“You need a little bit of luck. You need the referee to make a decision. It’s a penalty. If we score that, it changes the whole game. You’re left scratching your head really.
“Fortunately, I’ve had only three games here. I think I would be on anti-depressants if I’d been here all season.”
Striker Leon Best made his second substitute appearance after a long injury absence, left winger Jerome Thomas came on for his first Millers action and defender Stephen Kelly was on the bench after finally recovering from his knee problem.
Rotherham, at home to Brentford this Saturday, face an anxious wait over central defender and stand-in skipper Kirk Broadfoot who needed treatment on the pitch at the end of the clash at the Madejski Stadium.
“We won’t know for a couple of days,” Warnock said. “I don’t really worry about injuries no. We’ve got Kelly back now, so that is a plus. We’ll just play it by ear.”