Tony Mowbray, the Middlesbrough manager, criticised referee Carl Boyeson for being "too clever for his own good" after he controversially dismissed Barry Robson at the end of Boro's 2-0 home defeat by Leeds yesterday.
The game was lost by half-time, Robert Snodgrass firing underneath goalkeeper Jason Steele in the 18th minute and Luciano Becchio converting Ross McCormack's cross following a mistake by Justin Hoyte. Boro at least held Neil Warnock's side at arm's length for much of the second half, even going close to reducing the deficit through defender Seb Hines late on.
Then, shortly after substitute Kevin Thomson left the field with concussion, Boyeson ruled against Robson after a tangle of arms and legs with Leeds' Adam Clayton, the latter receiving only a yellow card for his part in it.
Mowbray said: "I think it was one of those scenarios where the referee was trying to be too clever for his own good. He's seen something that might be there or might not be there. If we'd had a more experienced referee he'd have pulled the game up before that and defused the situation.
"Barry had been fouled for about five seconds continuously, having his shirt dragged off him and then the boy [Clayton] scythed him down as Barry was getting up. I don't want to make too big an issue out of it because the referee wasn't the reason we lost today. He should have shown more common sense, but there you go."
The defeat left Boro seven points adrift of the automatic promotion spots in the Championship. "We didn't get started really today. It's frustrating because I thought they were ready before the game," added Mowbray. "The nature of the goals was disappointing. I felt as though we gifted them the goals, huffed and puffed but couldn't get back into it."
An elated Warnock was eager not to get carried away after reducing the gap between his side and those behind Cardiff, who are currently in the last play-off place just four points above them, with his first victory since taking over from Simon Grayson.
He said: "We have to win a number of games now, but we're quite capable of that so the players have got to show the consistency that I know they can show. The next game up [West Ham on Saturday] is fantastic. I said three weeks ago I wanted 30,000 fans at Elland Road, and they'll bring 4,000. I can't wait for that noise."
The West Ham manager, Sam Allardyce, said he was "not going to panic" after his team failed to win at home for the fourth game in a row on Saturday. The Hammers were held to a 1-1 draw by Doncaster, three days after the same result against Watford at Upton Park. Rovers picked up an unlikely, if deserved, point against the title chasers after James Coppinger cancelled out Kevin Nolan's early opener.
The draw let Southampton extend their lead at the top to three points as Adam Lallana's two goals gave them a 2-0 home win over Barnsley. "We have come up against a very good Barnsley side," manager Nigel Adkins said. "Our second-half performance was absolutely outstanding."