Middlesbrough midfielder, John Mikel Obi’s coach, Tony Pulis has put all blame on the match referee for his side’s 1-0 loss to Sheffield United in the English Championship.
Wednesday’s defeat saw Boro fall by the odd goal on the road, against a team that has soared so far this season, and now lie third on the log, while Mikel’s side are sixth.
Mikel was on for the duration of the game, but he could not make any difference to half The Blades, who threw away a 3-0 lead to draw 3-3 at Villa Park in their previous match, but bounced back with a hard-earned victory.
The result saw Sheffield close the gap on the top two to just two points – against their fellow promotion hopefuls, with Stearman heading home Oliver Norwood’s free-kick just past the hour mark.
Boro’s woes were compounded three minutes later as Daniel Ayala’s rash challenge on Kieran Dowell led to a second booking and an early bath to leave Tony Pulis’ men up against it.
Mark Duffy was denied by a Darren Randolph wonder save early on, before Dean Henderson produced an equally good stop at the other end from Jordan Hugill.
After a Billy Sharp goal was ruled offside, Stearman met Norwood’s delightful set-piece to head home at the back post and ultimately secure the points, before Ayala saw red for Boro a couple of minutes later.
Pulis was unhappy with the appointment of referee Andy Woolmer and pointed the finger at the officials as the reason his side returned home to Teesside empty-handed.
Mikel’s coach blasted: “It was a big game, but my disappointment was with the two decisions for the goal.
“The linesman giving the first free-kick, when there was lots of stuff going on all night worse than that but not being given.
“Then the goal, he’s got his arms right over Dael (Fry) and if he’s going to give the free-kick for the foul out wide.
“Then it’s beyond belief then that goal stands. I am disappointed. That was the referee’s eighth game this season in the Championship.
“We have played 32 this season. I don’t blame him, but those at the top… they’re getting Premier League referees to officiate games.
“That is disappointing. To give someone who has only refereed eight games a match of this calibre, it is difficult to understand.”