Mansfield Town skipper John Dempster felt Oxford United players helped influence referee Charles Breakspear into showing Jamie McGuire a 23rd minute red card in yesterday’s 3-1 home defeat by leaders Oxford United.
It was a sixth red card of the season for a Stags side now without a win in seven league games.
Dempster said: “I felt sorry for Jamie. There was a tackle there to be won and both players went for it. I don’t think the reaction of the Oxford players helped.
“Sometimes referees are a bit too quick to dish out red cards. He could have shown Jamie a yellow and moved on. It was an uphill struggle after that.
“Defeat is very painful. Early this season we were getting a lot of praise for keeping clean sheets and being strong defensively. That was the whole team doing that.
“Now we are conceding sloppy goals and we know it’s not good enough. We can’t blame the referee or conditions for that. We need to improve.
“As a player you have to take responsibility once you cross that white line.”
The win put Oxford top and Dempster added: “I think Oxford will be right up there at the end of the season. They have some good players with bags of experience and a good, young manager. They are organised and played some good football today.
“But we expect to be up there with the likes of Oxford and today we have let them off lightly.
“We can’t panic, though, there is still loads of football to be played. At this stage of the season it doesn’t mean anything. We just need to improve.”