MARK HUGHES expressed his dismay at the performance of referee Martin Atkinson after Stoke City crashed to a 5-1 Boxing Day defeat at Newcastle.
Atkinson dismissed two Stoke players, sent Hughes himself to the stands and made a number of other high-profile errors on an afternoon to forget in the north east.
The Potters were leading 1-0 thanks to an Oussama Assaidi strike when Atkinson sent off Glenn Whelan after showing him two yellow cards that were harsh say the least in quick succession.
Marc Wilson received a straight red card after bringing down Loic Remy in the area and although Remy failed to beat Thomas Sorensen from the spot, City faced an uphill task from that point.
Newcastle made their numerical advantage count and after Remy equalised before half-time, they secured maximum points after the break thanks goals from Remy, Yoan Gouffran and Yohan Cabaye and a Papiss Cisse penalty.
A clearly exasperated Hughes told stokecityfc.com: "I was absolutely dismayed by the performance of one of our more senior referees to be perfectly honest.
"Up to the point of the first sending-off, I thought we were totally in control of the game. We were 1-0 to the good and Newcastle were finding it very difficult to really have an impact on the game.
"Then the referee makes a couple of decisions which changed the course of the game.
"We all say - managers, players, everyone - that we want referees to get the key decisions right, the decisions that don't have a direct result on the result. Some of Martin's decisions today had a direct result on the outcome.
"We saved their first penalty and then went down the other end with nine men and had a chance to play someone in for a clear opportunity on goal. It gets handled by Mike Williamson and the referee who is two yards away doesn't give anything and they go straight up the other end and score.
"You can understand why we felt aggrieved at half-time and then to really compound things the ball goes out of play in the build-up to their second goal and nothing is given.
"It's bitterly disappointing because we had been on a decent run with just one defeat in eight league games before today but we'll dust ourselves down and go again at Spurs on Sunday."
Hughes apologised for the incident that led to him being sent to the stands. "There was a ball near me and I needed to get rid of some frustration so I booted it on to the pitch," he explained. "It was totally the wrong thing to do and I apologise for that, although I'd like to think he would have understood my frustration at that point of the game."
The Potters were dealt a blow before the game got underway as Asmir Begovic was ruled out with a broken finger sustained in training on Christmas Day.
"Asmir could out for five to six weeks," he added. "He did it right at the end of training yesterday and it's quite a bad break. We hope he's back sooner than predicted but we're going to be without him for a while."