Danny Mills has accused the referee Alan Greaves of failing to adequately protect the Manchester City players at Doncaster on Saturday.
City drew 1-1 at Belle Vue in their second pre-season friendly but the match was marred by a series of mass flare-ups, the worst of which followed City midfielder Joey Barton's over-vigorous attempt to kick the ball away from Paul Green, who had trapped it between his legs.
The City manager, Kevin Keegan, singled Barton out for stinging post-match criticism and, fearful the game could spill over at any point, was forced to abandon plans to field some of his younger first-team squad in the second half.
Mills admitted it did not look good, but put the blame on Greaves for failing to act when the first bad challenges went in.
"The referee let one or two dodgy tackles go early on and in the end he had absolutely no control whatsoever," the England full-back claimed.
"People go out to try and claim a scalp but sometimes you get a referee who isn't prepared to pull a couple of players to one side and have a quick chat after the first couple of tackles.
"If you aren't going to be protected by the referee, players look to protect themselves.
"You get one more bad tackle, then a couple of revenge ones and by that stage the referee had lost control and didn't have a clue."
Mills's opinion was not shared by his manager, who has warned Barton that any repeat of the rough-house tactics and his City career will be on the line.
"I have a problem with any player who just wants to go out and be physical all the time," he said. "There is no future in it."Reuse content