Rotherham United manager Paul Warne felt the decision to send Matt Crooks off with just under 20 minutes played, had a huge impact on his side's game with Middlesbrough tonight.
With his side leading thanks to Angus MacDonald's third-minute header, Matt Crooks was shown a straight red card after a clash of heads with Grant Hall.
Neil Warnock's side capitalised on their man advantage and took all three points thanks to goals from George Saville and Chuba Akpom.
"We’re going to have to lick our wounds, it’s going to hurt me for a bit and it’s hurt our players. We have to try and pick them up again tomorrow and attempt another cup final (at Barnsley)," Warne told www.themillers.co.uk.
"If I’m truly honest, I saw it but I didn’t really see it, if that makes any sense. I didn’t think it was a red card – it looked like head to head.
"Now, there’s no player in the world who would run at full pace, jump, and headbutt someone. That is unheard of. Obviously there’s noise on the side of the pitch and the usual kerfuffle, in fairness if it’s the other way around I might have thought it was something vicious.
"I’ve seen it back in slow motion and it looked harsh. It looked harsh to me and that’s the nicest way I can put it. I’ve asked the referee to look at it in the politest way I can. Maybe it’ll be rescinded, that’s what I’m hoping for. It was a massive blow and obviously Crooksy’s a massive player for us.
"All of a sudden, it’s a completely different game. Middlesbrough are a very, very good footballing side. They can move the ball from side to side really quick and they’ve got confidence of having an extra man and we can’t come out of our pockets.
"Overall, it’s a disappointing night and I feel like it was turned on the sending off, maybe I would say that."
The Millers have now played four games in nine days following tonight's clash, with Warne praising the efforts from his charges during this time, but admits they have lacked a cutting edge to see games out.
"They’ve performed Herculean, apart from the Coventry game," continued Warne. "In all the games we’ve lost by one goal.
"It’s disappointing and it’s hard for me to go in there and cover them in sugar because we have conceded two goals. I can’t knock them because of their willingness, but unfortunately willingness isn’t enough to win football games. You need that bit of quality.
"I was thinking if we got to 70 minutes, it could get edgy. A couple of times we pressed and they popped us off.
"There’s also the part of, I need Smudge to play Saturday and Freddie to play Saturday, but they have to play now as well. I thought we might have a go in the last 15 minutes but you leave yourself open at the back.
"When you start the game so well and look so fresh, you think we can take a win here and look to Saturday. Then to lose the way we did. The lads are suffering but I’ll see them in the morning and we’ll get them ready for Saturday."