Leeds United were today considering an appeal against the red card which is set to sideline defender Jason Pearce until the beginning of next month.
Manager Neil Warnock hinted that Leeds would ask the Football Association to overturn the first-half dismissal which contributed to Saturday’s 6-1 defeat to Watford at Elland Road.
Pearce was shown a straight red card for a late tackle on Matej Vydra and an automatic three-match ban would rule the centre-back out of United’s forthcoming matches against Millwall, Crystal Palace and Leicester City.
Warnock criticised the decision by referee Trevor Kettle, claiming the Berkshire official had been guided by his assistants after initially planning to book Pearce.
The red card on 44 minutes was a key moment on a bizarre afternoon which became farcical after an injury to Rodolph Austin early in the second half left Leeds to fend with nine players.
Warnock said: “With Jason, we probably will appeal against it.
“I thought it was a yellow card and the red was a bit harsh. His feet are on the floor all the time and it’s just a mistimed tackle.
“I don’t think the referee was going to send him off.
“He had the best view and I don’t think he thought it was a red. He took advice from his linesmen.
“Jason’s honest and he’s missed the ball but he hasn’t gone over the top or anything like that. People thought it was worse than it was. Because it’s Jason, he’s 100 miles an hour.”
Pearce’s anticipated suspension was one of two incurred by Leeds on Saturday, with Michael Brown facing a one-match ban following his fifth booking of the season.
Their punishments are set to begin during Sunday’s game at Millwall.
Brown took to the field as a half-time substitute against Watford, part of Warnock’s plan to salvage a result from a match which was slipping away from his side.
Watford opened the scoring through Vydra’s 28th-minute goal and were given complete control by Pearce’s dismissal. Warnock used all three of his substitutes before the start of the second half and had no further options available when Austin was stretchered from the field in the 47th minute.
United’s manager, whose side are 17th in the Championship after six league games without a win, defended his early flurry of substitutions, saying: “I wanted to try and win the game with 10 men.
“I felt that if we could get a grip, be positive, keep two up front and go about things in a different way then we’d have chances. But it was a bad day at the office.”
Warnock also insisted he was right to replace El-Hadji Diouf at the interval, with the Senegalese international struggling to make any meaningful impression.
“I think with 10 men it’s very difficult to keep Diouf on,” he said.
“He plays a role which wouldn’t have benefitted us and I didn’t think he was having a good game anyway. So if I’m honest that decision was a no brainer for me.”
Warnock’s immediate thoughts on Saturday evening were with Austin who was taken to hospital in Leeds with a suspected double fracture of one leg.
United are yet to confirm the full extent of his injury but X-rays on the Jamaican international – a £300,000 signing from SK Brann in July – are believed to have allayed initial fears of serious damage to his leg.
Warnock feared the worst immediately after full-time, saying: “I’m told it’s a double fracture and I’m devastated for him.
“He’s a genuine lad and we’re going to miss him for how many months, maybe six?
“I’m not bothered about football at all when a lad like Rudy gets an injury. It’s more important to look after him.”
Watford manager Gianfranco Zola said: “On the counter attack we looked dangerous and we could have even scored another goal. I tried to put a team on the pitch with good balance going
“It was a very good result, I am pleased for our strikers because we needed a confidence booster and this will provide it,” he said.
“To be honest, the fact that they had nine gave us a big advantage, but we did very well and used the extra man wisely. It proved to be a very good day for us.”
The one down side for Zola as he headed back down the M1, though, was a possible dislocated shoulder for Abdi.