GARY Rowett has claimed a refereeing blunder helped to send his Burton Albion promotion hopefuls sliding to a second successive defeat against sides from the League Two basement department.
Hard of the heels of their slip-up at home to Aldershot Town, the Brewers went down 3-0 to Wycombe Wanderers at a sodden Adams Park on Saturday.
And Rowett insisted referee David Webb had a big part to play in a defeat that dropped his side to 11th place in the table — only days after they had set their sights on moving into the top three.
Albion were still in the contest despite Matt McClure’s 13th minute goal until Webb controversially awarded the hosts a penalty for Zander Diamond’s challenge on the Chairboys striker in the 57th minute — and then sent off the Brewers’ skipper.
The Scot will now miss Saturday’s FA Cup second round tie at Crewe Alexandra through suspension.
“Whatever way you look at it, the referee has changed the game,” said Rowett.
“I didn’t agree with the decision for the penalty and certainly not for the sending off.
“At first, I thought Zander got something on the ball and then it went sideways.
“It wasn’t denying a goalscoring opportunity because their lad was never going to get to the ball.
“The linesman has not done anything, so I don’t understand why the referee saw it the way he did.
“I think Wycombe were as surprised as us when the penalty was given.”
Joel Grant scored from the spot and 10-man Albion were doomed when McClure quickly added his second of the game as Wycombe climbed out of the bottom two.
Rowett said: “We’ve got ourselves into a great position in the league but in the last two games we’ve let ourselves down, so we’ve got an awful lot of work to do.
“But things do gall you when I see (Leon) Winfield make about 35 fouls on Calvin (Zola) during the game and doesn’t get talked to by the referee until the 90th minute.
“I just find that very, very hard to understand and I will speak to the ref to ask his opinion.”
Rowett was also soured by an Albion performance that he felt again fell short of his expectations.
It began badly when McClure preyed on half-hearted defending to give Wycombe the lead after Dean Lyness had pulled off a good save to deny Grant.
Rowett said: “It was a poor goal to concede, first by letting the lad to get in the initial header the way he did.
“We’re a lot bigger and stronger in there and we should really have won that first header – and then we backed off in the box, which was suicidal.
“When we got balls into their box and it dropped, no-one really anticipated things or showed enough drive.
“You just want to see a couple of people running forward into areas to try and cause the opposition a problem.
“I’m disappointed because what I wanted to see was three or four more players showing a real determination to get a result at places like this.
“I thought Robbie Weir was exceptional today, probably the best player on park and certainly his best game for while.
“Dean Lyness made a couple of good saves but I would be hard pushed to find anyone after that who was up to our normal standard.
“First half we weren’t quite good enough, but we still got into some good areas and put some balls into the box we needed to do more with.
“We also had eight or nine corners and we needed to capitalise on them.
“Our performance wasn’t good enough and that’s two games in a row where we needed to do much, much better.
“I’ve told the players that it wasn’t good enough.
“We need to do more than we are doing at the moment, particularly away from home.
“But again, that’s only two poor games out of an awful lot of games, and what we do now is come out of this (busy) period and allow things to settle down.
“We’ll work that bit harder to try and improve so that we’re competitive and as good as we can be.
“We’ve run out of a little bit of steam really, which I can understand.
“One or two have struggled to get through this period of a lot of fixtures with the energy they need, and we’ve got to take stock of that.
“The league’s that tight that two or three wins will put us back up there, but I look more at performances.
“In the last three games, apart from a little bit against Dagenham, we have come away from where we were in terms of drive and energy.”