Robbie Neilson was left exasperated by referee Nick Walsh’s decision to send off Josh Ginnelly in Hearts’ 3-1 victory over Dundee United on Saturday.
With his team leading 2-1 heading into stoppage time, the Jambos attacker was shown a second yellow card for sarcastically applauding the official after being booked for time-wasting.
Neilson felt Walsh overreacted in handing out the first booking to the Englishman, who will miss the cinch Premiership trip to Motherwell in a fortnight.
“I thought it was so poor,” said the Hearts boss. “I tried to talk to the referee but he didn’t want to speak to me.
“I thought it was terrible. Dundee United were down to 10 men but they time wasted all day (while leading 1-0), and two or three times the referee warned them.
“We did it once and he gets the yellow card out, desperate to do it.
“The second one, yes, you can’t clap him, but Nick Walsh is an experienced referee and the first one for me was handled very poorly.
“We pay the price as we have a man suspended now.”
United boss Liam Fox expressed sympathy for Peter Pawlett after the midfielder picked up what appears to be a serious hamstring injury on his first start for a year.
The 32-year-old spent the bulk of 2022 on the sidelines with an Achilles injury which kept him out from February until October.
After seven sub appearances in recent months, Pawlett was promoted to the starting line-up for the first time this term when Jamie McGrath suffered an injury in the warm-up, but he limped off in clear distress in the second half.
“I am absolutely devastated for Pete,” said Fox. “He has worked so hard to get back and he now faces a spell out again.
“It was his hamstring and there isn’t much power or strength in it, which is always a concern.
“He was the best player on the park for the first period and it’s a sore one for him.”
United have now lost three attacking midfielders in quick succession to hamstring injuries, with Ian Harkes ruled out for several weeks just a few days before McGrath and Pawlett suffered their setbacks at Tynecastle.
Fox – whose side remain bottom of the cinch Premiership – will now weigh up whether to go into the free agent market for reinforcements.
“I need to have a wee think,” he said. “We might look at it, we might not. We will be low on bodies for a period but I believe in the group.
“We have had a tough week with three defeats, but I think we have seen an upturn in performances.
“I am now even more determined that we will get to where we need to.”