BARNSLEY substitute Rory Delap said Alan Smith didn’t touch him in an incident which saw the Dons man sent off in the 3-1 FA Cup defeat on Saturday.
Dons skipper Dean Lewington said he heard referee Michael Jones tell the Barnsley player that he saw Smith elbow him in the head as they challenged for the ball deep into stoppage time, a sign of a straight red card.
Smith’s dismissal mattered little with Dons already 3-1 down, though Lewington admitted it was a strange scenario to be part of.
“When it happened, I didn’t even think it was a foul,” he said.
“The referee said Smith had elbowed him in the back of the head, he’d seen the contact and it was a straight red card.
“Five seconds later, Rory Delap was telling him he was nowhere near him and he didn’t touch him. The ref didn’t really know what to say then, it was a strange scenario.
“Smithy said if he caught him anywhere, it would have been in his back, so it’s a strange one.”
But Lewington echoed his manager’s sentiments, pointing at the lacklustre opening 25 minutes as the key reason they’re out of the FA Cup.
Chris Dagnall opened the scoring after two minutes before Marlon Harewood capitalised on Lewington’s mistake to make it 2-0 10 minutes later.
He said: “Letting in a goal after two minutes puts you on the back foot. It’s hard to tell what you’ve done wrong when they score that quickly, and it knocked us off our stride.
“For the first 25 minutes, they deserved their two goal lead, and were thoroughly on top and we found it difficult going.
Speaking about the second goal, Lewington added: “It was just at a height where I couldn’t get it away. I thought it was going out of play, but it got stuck in the mud and allowed the chance, but looking back I should have done better with it.
“We spoke at half time and said we still had 45 minutes to turn it around. We weren’t going to let it end with an inept performance. And we got a reaction.
“Barnsley had to work for their victory. After the first half performance, it was important for us to show a bit of character and fight.”
With no distractions now standing between Dons and their League 1 fight for promotion, Lewington knows that there is a lot of work to be done between now and the end of April if they are to get within touching distance of the play-offs.
Dons are currently 12th in the table, 11 points from the last play-off spot.
Lewington said: “There’s 16 games to go. I watched Shrewsbury beat Tranmere and that tells you everything you need to know about the league, when a team third from bottom can go to a team at the top and get a result.
“We know other teams will have difficult spells, and we need to get a run of games together and put together some victories.
“It’s still possible, but we need to improve drastically on what we’re doing at the moment.”