David Healy blasted referee Arnold Hunter for the red card that forced Linfield skipper Jamie Mulgrew out of Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Cliftonville – and home boss Barry Gray backed the Blues chief.
Mulgrew was given his marching orders 26 minutes into an ill-tempered affair when Maguiresbridge whistler Hunter ruled that his challenge on Jay Donnelly merited a dismissal and, while it was perhaps no surprise to hear Healy voice his disgust, Gray was every bit as critical of the decision.
After joking that he was “delighted” to see the red card waved in the visiting captain’s direction, the Cliftonville boss added: “If it had been one of my players sent off for that, I’d have reacted just like David and gone buck mad too.
“I don’t think it was that bad a tackle. It was a foul and a free-kick but, personally speaking, I don’t think players should be sent off for that.”
In expressing pride in his team for recovering from Joe Gormley’s breakthrough goal to level through substitute Michael O’Connor in the closing stages, Healy also made clear his dissatisfaction with the referee.
“I thought we were the better side before the red card and the better side after the red card,” he said.
“For the referee to make a decision like that - and it’s not the first time we’ve had problems with this referee, or even the second - is huge and completely changes the game.
“But I’m proud of my players for how they stood up to everything and how they kept going. I told them afterwards that it’s a better performance and result than against the Crues last week, because this is a very difficult place to come and to play the majority of the match with 10 men, then fall behind but still fight back to equalise, it says a lot about us.
“In fact, we even had a couple of chances where we could have gone on to win it where you’re just hoping we make the right decision or pick the right pass, but I can’t fault my players.
“I’m very pleased with them but we’re all very, very frustrated at other things that have gone on today.”
On watching his men throw away two points by failing to see out their advantage against 10 men, Gray added: “It’s massively frustrating but there’s no point in existing in a bubble of negativity – other people will do that for us.
“We’ve gone ahead and have retreated to the edge of our 18-yard box, which has just invited Linfield on to us. It’s about game management and seeing games out when you’re in situations like that.”
Cliftonville: Brush, McGovern, Ives, Breen, Harney, C. Curran, Garrett, McDonald, Catney, Gormley, J. Donnelly subs Neeson (not used), White (not used), Bagnall (not used), Lavery (not used), Maguire (not used), McMenamin (replaced McDonald 77), A. Donnelly (not used)
Linfield: Carroll, Robinson, Callacher, Waterworth, Cooper, Clarke, Kearns, Mulgrew, Mitchell, Quinn, Casement subs Deane (not used), Stafford (replaced Kearns 89), O’Connor (replaced Waterworth 69), Millar (replaced Clarke 79), Fallon (not used), Smith (not used), Garrett (not used)
Referee: Arnold Hunter