Russell Martin | The red card ruined the game
Russell Martin felt referee Jarred Gillett made the wrong decision in sending off Swansea City defender Ryan Manning against Fulham, and that the red card had ruined the game as a spectacle.
The Swans had gone toe-to-toe with the runaway Championship leaders during the first 40 minutes, with Michael Obafemi going closest to a breakthrough for the hosts.
But the nature of the contest completely changed when Manning was shown a red card by the Australian official five minutes before the break, following a challenge on Cottagers’ midfielder Harry Wilson.
The Swans players and bench were furious at the decision, and the task of taking on a Fulham side loaded with Premier League quality and experience – and surely set for a top-flight return – a man light proved too much.
Aleksandar Mitrovic’s 35th goal of a record-breaking season opened the scoring just 13 seconds into the second half, before a Ben Cabango own goal, a Bobby Decordova-Reid effort and a brace from Neco Williams gave the visitors an emphatic 5-1 win.
Joel Piroe had got Swansea back to three one as he headed in his 16th goal of the season.
Head coach Martin accepted his side’s game management in the early stages of the second half had been poor, but felt what had been an engrossing contest and been spoiled by a red card he did not feel was warranted.
“The red card is the most important factor of the night. It has totally changed the game,” said Martin.
“For the 40 minutes up until then we were fantastic, we had control and some of the stuff we played with the ball was incredible.
“The first 15 minutes was probably as well as we have started all season, so I am disappointed for the players and fans that such a good start, such a good atmosphere has been undone by a very poor decision.
“I know it’s an emotional game and the officials have a tough job, there is no doubt about it, but I could not believe how quickly he got the red card out.
“I was really surprised and it has ruined the game as a spectacle, because until then it was two good teams going at it. We showed for 40 minutes that on our day we can be as good as anyone in this league."
“But, by the same token, the referee is not to blame for the start of the second half. That was really poor.
“We followed that up by conceding another goal shortly after, and that is down to game management and we have to get better at that, but the game is done after that against a team who have been scoring for fun against 11 men, let alone 10.
“I am proud of the way the players stuck at it, but I just don’t think it was a red card.
“You can be unhappy with the challenge, but they are not running into each other. He is running away from Ryan, and Ryan is a touch late.
“The boy is quick, it is not high and it is not reckless, which is what I was told he had been sent off for at half-time.
“His timing is late, it is not two-footed, it is not a lunge. He is on the stretch but it is really difficult when players are running at full speed and you have to be really sure. It is not clear enough for me in that instance.”