Dennis Wise celebrated his 40th birthday by creating more footballing controversy. The Leeds United manager walked into the routine post-match news conference following this rugged contest with a laptop computer and demonstrated that the referee, Keith Stroud, had made a mistake in sending off his captain, Kevin Nicholls, six minutes from time.
Using clips taken from ProZone's film of the match, Wise showed that Ipswich Town's top scorer Alan Lee had deliberately raised his arm and elbowed Hayden Foxe, for which he was only cautioned, while Nicholls had inadvertently caught the Ipswich sub-stitute Danny Haynes with his forearm as he attempted to dispossess him on the turn.
"I asked the referee to look at it and to change his mind, because he has made a mistake, but he won't look at it," said Wise. "It was the linesman who made the decision but only after he heard a load of punters behind him."
In a bizarre and unscheduled video show, Wise attempted to demonstrate that a linesman raised his flag to award a free-kick to Leeds when Nicholls challenged Haynes. Then it appeared that the linesman changed his mind, said Wise, and told the referee, who did not see the incident himself, that Nicholls should be sent off for dangerous play.
"It should not have been a straight red. Not if Lee was given only a yellow. It's not right and it costs us."
After the furore had subsided and Nicholls went off, the referee awarded the resultant free-kick to Leeds. Wise was adamant that Nicholls, who had been cautioned two minutes earlier for kicking Lee, did not deserve a straight red.
Nicholls was making his comeback after two knee operations following his move last summer from Luton Town. "He is very down and disappointed," said Wise, who added that he felt his team deserved something from an evenly balanced contest that was decided by a cracking first-half goal by Gavin Williams.
The Welshman collected a perfect headed pass by Lee, ran through a weak tackle by Foxe and then struck a 25-yard diagonal shot beyond Lewis Price. It was a rare and isolated moment of grace on an ugly day, littered with five other bookings, preceded by prayers and a minute's silence for the recent victims of this tragic town. The words of Wise did not help.