Stoke boss Tony Pulis criticised Jack Cork for his reaction to the challenge that earned Steven Nzonzi a red card in today’s 3-3 draw with Southampton and confirmed the Potters will appeal the decision.
The midfielder saw red in the 71st minute of an action-packed game for what referee Mark Clattenburg clearly thought was a dangerous, over-the-top tackle, and Cork reacted as if he had been badly hurt.
Pulis said: “I’ve spoken to Mark about it and he’s going to have a look at it and then take a view from there. You’ve got to be careful what you say. It’s disappointing but you have to get on with it.
“I was disappointed with the reaction of the player. That didn’t help. I’m a great advocate for players getting up and getting on with things and that (Cork’s reaction) doesn’t help referees.
“Whether the reaction of Cork, who is a good player and a good lad, has influenced Mark, I’m not sure, but Steven certainly doesn’t stamp on the player. There was no intent. He’s actually planted his leg between his legs, which was quite clever.”
Pulis was also unhappy that his side were not awarded a penalty with the score at 3-2 to the visitors when Jose Fonte appeared to handle the ball in a challenge with Kenwyne Jones, while they had another strong appeal for a later handball against Maya Yoshida.
Southampton boss Nigel Adkins was unsure about the red card but admitted Fonte was fortunate not to concede a spot-kick.
He said of the Nzonzi decision: “I was in the dugout so I couldn’t tell. Obviously Jack’s rolling round. The referee straight away has his red card out. I haven’t seen the video.
“I’m led to believe it was a penalty. I know Tony’s spitting feathers at the moment. From where I was in the dugout it did look suspicious, as though the ball had hit Jose’s arm.”
Stoke were forced into rare defensive changes because captain Ryan Shawcross and full-back Geoff Cameron were suspended, with Matthew Upson and Ryan Shotton coming in.
That seemed to unsettle the Potters and the team who had conceded only four goals at home in the Barclays Premier League this season shipped three in the first half.
Rickie Lambert opened the scoring in the 10th minute but Kenwyne Jones made amends for an awful miss by equalising with a smart backheel six minutes later.
A mistake from Robert Huth, who miscued a clearance against the bar, presented Jay Rodriguez with Saints’ second in the 24th minute, and 12 minutes later Andy Wilkinson’s own goal made it 3-1.
Southampton should have extended their lead but Asmir Begovic saved Rodriguez’s shot and Guly Do Prado missed an open goal from the follow-up, and they were made to pay as Stoke went down the other end and Upson scored from a corner in the 67th minute.
Nzonzi’s sending-off came only four minutes later but Stoke kept pressing and got their reward in the 90th minute when substitute Cameron Jerome let fly with a stunning 30-yard volley that flew in off the underside of the bar.
Peter Crouch was just pipped to goal of the season last campaign by Newcastle’s Papiss Cisse, and Pulis said: “At the time I thought Crouchy’s was the best goal I’ve ever seen. I was really, really pleased to see Cameron’s go in, let’s say that.”
Stoke have now gone 10 games without defeat and are unbeaten at the Britannia Stadium in the league since February 4.
The Potters boss was disappointed with his side’s first-half showing and felt it was a hangover from the St Stephen's Day win against Liverpool.
Pulis said: “In the first half I thought we were shocking, I didn’t think we deserved anything. We got the goal, and it was a great goal from Kenwyne. He most probably missed an easier chance – I still can’t believe he’s missed it.
“But I thought Southampton were the better team, they deserved their lead. I think we were still tapping ourselves on the back from our performance against Liverpool.
“And then second half we came out and threw everything at them, even with 10 men I thought we were the team that were going to go on and score more goals.”
The result meant Southampton dropped back into the bottom three, a point behind Aston Villa and Wigan, but Adkins felt it was a positive outcome despite conceding so late.
He said: “It’s a fantastic point away from home. They had only conceded four goals at home this season and we’ve gone and scored three and could have scored more.
“We changed a few of the players round because we knew we had to deal with the aerial bombardment that would probably come during the course of the game. The players have been top draw today. At the end of the day it’s a wonder strike from the lad.”