Stoke City lead in-form Newcastle United 1-0 at St. James Park and seemed quite capable of putting some points with their poor away record when referee Martin Atkinson made a series of debatable calls that lead a 9-man Potters squad falling 5-1 and six points below 9th place Southampton.
“We’re dumbstruck by the performance of the referee, unfortunately,” Hughes told Sky Sports. “People say he’s one of the best referees in the league, and he’s performed worse than the standard required today.”
Hughes (see aesthetically-pleasing image of a graceful coat fling above) was sent off soon after defender Glenn Whelan received his second yellow card of the day, effectively dooming Stoke’s rare road lead. Whelan’s first yellow was for kicking the ball away after a rash foul on Moussa Sissoko, but his second seemed to be at-worst up for debate; Yohan Cabaye crumpled after a questionable kick to his lower right leg. It was a silly foul for a man sitting on a yellow, but certainly not so treacherous.
Minutes later, with Hughes in the seats, Marc Wilson received a red card for taking Loic Remy down. A penalty followed and Stoke survived it only to lose its lead on a Newcastle counter attack that followed an non-whistled handball on Mike Williamson.
Hughes went on…
1) On Whelan’s red:
“Apparently, he said that Whelan kicked the ball away, which bemuses me as Cabaye went over the top and Glenn reacted. Two minutes later he receives the second. An experienced referee should get the two players together and tell them to calm down.”
“I’m dismayed by his performance. When you’re on a yellow card you have to be careful, but Glenn’s just as bemused as everybody.”
2) On Wilson’s red:
“I’m assuming it’s for denying a goalscoring opportunity. My view is that there’s a lot of pushing and pulling. He went down very easily, but nobody seemed surprised when the penalty was given.”
3) On his sending off:
“I apologize as I kicked the ball onto the pitch. You have to accept that, but I think everybody who made the long trek to watch us today was disappointed with what happened.”
Hughes said he felt his team were on its way to maximum points before the calls in question and, while the game was very early and on the road against a strong side, many neutrals will agree with the outspoken manager. The Magpies had little trouble capitalizing on the Potters, who lacked composure after the incidents (and quite understandably so).