Tony Pulis, the Middlesbrough manager, labelled referee Darren Bond's decision to send off skipper Grant Leadbitter as "very, very poor and very disappointing" after his side lost 2-1 at play-off rivals Sheffield United tonight.
Leadbitter saw red after two bookings in a matter of minutes, for challenges on David Brooks and John Fleck, as his side lost 2-1, with Lee Evans at the double for the Blades.
And Pulis said: "For the second booking, if there was contact it was minimal - knowing that another booking takes the kid out of the game.
"In this country, it's a game of challenges and referees have got to understand there are going to be times when players make honest challenges and they are going to give free-kicks away.
"In such a big game, to make that decision was very, very poor and very disappointing.
"I thought in the first half we never played with the tempo and the energy that you need to have. The three subs came on, gave us loads of energy and I thought in the second half we were absolutely fantastic.
"For me, if you can't finish in the top two, you want to get in the play-offs, so this is where you want to be. This is not pressure, this is what we all want."