GARY Rowett was left fuming after Ian Sharps was sent off in Burton Albion’s 1-0 play-off first leg win over Southend.
The Brewers beat the Shrimpers 1-0 yesterday through Adam McGurk’s quality finish on the stroke of half-time to fire themselves ahead in the race to reach Wembley.
Albion were just edging a close tie when player-of-the-year Sharps was dismissed for two yellow cards in two minutes just before the hour.
The first was for deliberate handball when the ball seemed to have struck his shoulder – and Rowett says the decision, which will cost Sharps a potential Wembley appearance, was “horrendous”.
“I thought the sending-off was a poor decision,” said the Brewers boss after an exciting match. “Pretty quickly the monitors confirmed the first yellow certainly wasn’t a yellow.
“If it has hit the top of his shoulder, then it’s not a deliberate handball. If he sticks his arm up to stop it, then fair enough.
“I felt as though it was a little bit unjust with some of the challenges that went on that weren’t given as yellows.
“I felt as though there was a lack of consistency.
“(Sharps possibly missing out on Wembley) shows what a horrendous decision that is. That’s poor.”
Rowett stopped short of condemning referee Oliver Langford, but thinks some of the challenges Southend got away with, including a late tackle by John White, were far worse than those for which Sharps was punished.
The 33-year-old faces a two-match ban because of his red card in the game against Oxford in September.
“I’m not going to bleat about anything,” said the manager.
“But if you look at two or three of the challenges that happened, I felt they were cheap - I’m not complaining about it - but the ref’s there then to deal with that.
“By not dealing with it he let the game get away from him.
“We’ve suffered another massive blow, which we’ll have to get over and sort out and try to recover from.
“I felt the second one was played for a little bit, but yes it’s a yellow card.
“The first one has hit him on the top of the chest, so how you can give a yellow card and then send Ian Sharps off and then look at the two incidents White was involved in, they were certainly far more worthy of two yellow cards.
“But I’m not complaining about that, I’m just disappointed we now lose Ian Sharps for the second leg, which is crucial, and today one or two have had to run on empty and that’ll affect their recovery.”
Despite the blow of losing Sharps, Rowett was pleased to take a 1-0 lead to Essex on Saturday with a place at Wembley at stake.
“I’m really pleased with the way they went about it, but we know it’s only half a job done and we know it’s going to be a very difficult second leg at Roots Hall because they’re an excellent side with an excellent home record,” he said.
“I thought in many ways there were a lot of good things about the game today.
“The goal was fantastic and the first bit of composure we showed.
“Just early on the occasion made us a little bit nervous and edgy.
“We had the lion’s share of the territorial advantage and it was a lovely, well-worked goal.”
Rowett says, though, the crucial goal will be the first one to hit the net at Roots Hall.
“Yes, we’ve got an advantage but it’s only an advantage if we score the first goal down at Roots Hall,” he said. “I believe that’s the one which is going to be crucial.”
Zeli Ismail was taken off at half-time with pain in the hamstring he tore in March. He will be assessed this week.
McGurk was also substituted, but it was only a touch of cramp and nothing more serious.