Sunderland’s Dan Neil was sent off, with that moment the catalyst for Middlesbrough’s convincing win on Wearside.
Tony Mowbray says referee Jarred Gillett ‘spoiled’ the game by sending off Dan Neil on the stroke of half-time, in a moment that changed the course of the match as Sunderland ended up crashing to their heaviest-ever home defeat at the hands of Middlesbrough. The Black Cats were the better side in the first half at the Stadium of Light albeit the game was goalless, when Neil – who had already been booked for a foul – was shown a second yellow card and then a red in injury-time before the break for arguing and gesticulating towards Gillett over a free-kick he felt Sunderland should have been awarded.
That incident proved pivotal, with Boro making the extra man count in the second period and they ran out 4-0 winners thanks to goals from ex-Sunderland academy man Sam Greenwood, Matt Crooks, Isaiah Jones, and substitute Marcus Forss. “I don’t understand the logic,” said Mowbray.
“I haven’t come to bash the referee, but I find it really, really, really ridiculous that in the referee’s meeting which the managers have to go to these days, he’s saying he’s going to empathetically manage this game. Wow. A derby, 45,000 people, and he gives a red card for gesticulating at him.
“It seems pretty harsh to me. Dan’s desperately disappointed in that dressing room.
“As a local lad, he feels the nature of the game as opposed to some of the foreign lads who were on the pitch. He wanted to do well.
“My own view is that the referee has spoiled the game, in my opinion. When a referee talks about empathy before the game and how he is going to manage it … I didn’t feel any empathy in the red card in the last minute of the first half.
“Surely, even if he wanted to book him, he has to use some empathy and say ‘listen son, calm down, this is a great game with two teams going at it, 45,000 in the stadium, I’ll have to pull out the red card if you keep shouting and gesticulating at me’. Where’s the management of the official? That’s what I would say.
“I hope that’s not me being overly-critical of him. I’m just disappointed really because I felt it was a really good game of football first half.”
Asked whether he intended to speak to Gillett after the match, Mowbray said: “I never go and see referees. I’ve got two bookings already and one more and I’ll have to miss a game [through a touchline suspension].
“I’ll say something to him that’s probably inappropriate and I’ll get another booking. I think I’ll just leave it.”
With the extra man, Middlesbrough put Sunderland to the sword. Mowbray said: “We played against a good team, you could see they are a good team, I’ve always said that.
“They are a good team with the ball, they are better than a lot of teams we have played with the ball this season, and they can give you problems. The first half was a really good game, we probably had the most threatening moments and we felt pretty confident we would go on and win the match.
“When you play against a good football team and you are a man down, it’s really difficult because they pick the right pass. I see it as a learning curve. I’ve just told them in the dressing room, not shouting at them, but how you play regardless of the shape or formation, you have to give a little bit more when you are down to ten men.”