Adam Matthews says he and his Sunderland team-mates felt the first yellow card that led to Callum McManaman’s crucial sending off was harsh, and wouldn’t blame the winger for Saturday’s 3-1 defeat to Reading.
McManaman was sent off for deliberate handball just before half-time, but was booked in the opening stages of the game for a tackle on Modou Barrow.
Full-back Matthews was frustrated with the result, but felt his side showed they were more than capable with 11 players.
The ex-Celtic man said: “We’re disappointed with the sending off. I think the first yellow was a bit harsh, but obviously, being on a yellow, you can’t handball it.
“I don’t think he meant to, it was just instinct.
“It’s not his fault that we lost the game – he’s trying to score a goal and it’s just instinct.
“Going forward, we looked quite dangerous, but obviously the sending off, and the timing of the sending off, was difficult.
“Conceding a goal so early in the second half, we had to go chasing it.
“Once they got the second and third, it was a grind from there, but I think there were some decent signs in the first half when we had 11 players.”
Asked about Sunderland’s tactic of sitting off Reading, Matthews said: “I think that worked quite well in the first half.
“We let their centre-halves have it and, when it went into midfield, we pressed well as a team and won the ball in dangerous areas.
“But going down to 10 men, the way they played probably made it extra difficult. They don’t play many long balls and they keep possession, so they tired us out well in the second half.
“When we had 11 players on the pitch I think we were more than a match for them,” he added.
“They had the possession, but we had the better chances. Against a team who keep the ball as well as they do, it was always going to be difficult going down to 10 men.
“I keep going back to the first-half performance, but that was probably the best we’ve played at home.
“They had more of the ball, but it was all in their half – they didn’t really cause us any problems. We looked solid as a back four.
“It’s disappointing to lose again at home, but, with this new manager, I’m sure we can put it right.”
Matthews also praised the contribution of youngsters George Honeyman and Joel Asoro,
He said: “George has done well all season and I think Joel did well coming on at Burton, and the same against Reading.
“He has a bit of pace about him and a few tricks, so he can get about defenders. He’s a good player to come off the bench.”