John O’Shea has backed his coach’s request for Wes Brown’s weekend red card to be rescinded.
Kevin Friend’s decision to send Brown off for a 36th-minute challenge on Charlie Adam was widely condemned.
Mark Hughes and Gustavo Poyet both offered to show video evidence after the match that proved Kevin Friend’s decision should have gone in their team’s favour, but most neutral observers sided with the Sunderland man. Match of the Day pundit Alan Hansen described it as “a joke”.
Without a defender who has been inspirational since his return from 21 months on the treatment table, the Black Cats were not only unable to wipe out Stoke’s one-goal deficit, but saw Steven Nzonzi double it.
With Crystal Palace winning at Hull City, it returned Sunderland to the bottom of the Premier League table. O’Shea urged the Football Association not to rub salt into their wounds by upholding Brown’s three-match ban.
“It’s fairly simple,” said the Sunderland captain. “These things can be overturned if they think they’ve made a mistake, so let’s just move on with it. The ref’s not had the best of days, has he? Hopefully the red card will get overturned. He said he took his time over it but he still managed to get it wrong because Wes has clearly won the ball. I don’t think he even touched Adam.
“The reaction from Charlie could have been a bit better. I think it’s the reaction of their bench the ref has gone on, to be honest.”
Although Adam had given Stoke the lead six minutes before the straight red card, for dangerous play, O’Shea felt his team was in the ascendancy.
“Having seen the replays of Wes’ tackle it’s a little bit frustrating but obviously it’s one of those things that happens,” said Brown’s central defensive partner. “It’s so frustrating.
“We were a goal down at that stage but I thought we were in clear control of the game and it gave Stoke a massive, massive lift.
“We had a couple of good chances.
“The position we’re in we can’t keep going on about decisions. We need to keep our own focus and work on that.
“We move on, we have to dig deep. We’re passing the ball a lot better, moving the ball around well, but we have to be scoring our goals as well, that’s what’s going to win us matches.
“The late goal we conceded, we were probably running out of gas and Stoke punished us.
“We have to move on quickly. We’ve got another big game at Aston Villa (on Saturday) and hopefully we can get something from it.”
As well as demanding an apology from head of referees Mike Riley, Poyet also called on the authorities to take matters into their own hands rather than wait for a Sunderland appeal, which seems certain to be forthcoming if they do not.
Without either, Brown would miss back-to-back home games against Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur which follow Saturday’s trip to the West Midlands.
Yesterday was only Brown’s third start of the season but his impact on the Black Cats, and even O’Shea’s own form, has been impressive. In his 261 minutes on the field this season, the team has only conceded twice.
“You can imagine how gutted he is,” O’Shea commented.
“He’s worked so hard to get back.
“Fingers crossed it will be overturned and he’ll be okay for next week.
“We know what a player he is and with a bit of commonsense, which we need at this time, it will be overturned.”
The defeat means Sunderland have not won away since last season’s Tyne-Wear derby.