Teammate Lee Frecklington has sprung to the defence of Matt Derbyshire after the first red card of the Rotherham United forward’s career in English football.
The Millers are appealing against the sending-off which came 61 minutes into last Saturday’s 2-1 Championship victory over former boss Steve Evans’ Leeds United at a sold-out AESSEAL New York Stadium.
Derbyshire challenged Gaetano Berardi in the air, opening up a head wound on the Leeds right-back when his arm inadvertently caught him.
“I know Matt and his character,” Frecklington, who scored the first goal and won the 89th-minute penalty which settled the contest, said. “He would never intentionally hurt anyone. I knew straight away there was nothing deliberate. He said that, too.
“From where I was standing, I didn’t think the referee was going to send him off. But then you saw the blood and it looked a nasty cut. That probably swayed him.”
Rotherham manager Neil Warnock said: “I thought our sending-off was harsh. I’ve looked at it. We will appeal that. Derbs isn’t like that, he hasn’t gone to elbow him.”
Derbyshire, who has been playing on the left of midfield in the Millers’ run of five wins and a draw in their last six matches, was sent off in a Champions League clash while playing for Olympiakos in Bordeaux in 2010 but has no such blemishes in domestic football.
Evans, who signed the 29-year-old for Rotherham in 2014, said: “Matt throws an arm. I know Matt particularly well and he’s not the type of player to do that to people.”
Frecklington is the club’s penalty-taker, but Warnock, unaware of the midfielder’s claim, opted for Greg Halford who calmly put the ball past centre-half Giuseppe Bellusci.
Bellusci was standing in for Marco Silvestri after the visiting goalkeeper had received his marching orders in the spot-kick incident.
Halford was given a standing ovation at the end of the match to complete his rehabilitation from the unwanted figure told he had no future at the club earlier in the season to key man since Warnock took over in February.
“I wanted the penalty because I had taken the last one,” Frecklington revealed. “But Greg said the gaffer had said he was on penalty duties and I can’t argue with the gaffer, can I?
“It was brave to take the penalty. He is a good player. You don’t have his career without that and, thankfully, now people are seeing why he got his moves to the Premier League.
“It has been difficult for Greg. Because he went through that tough time and was training away from the main group, that made it hard to mix with the lads. We just didn’t see him.
“Since he came back in, we have all had a laugh about him being the gaffer’s love-child. He is always getting special treatment in training. We know it is a joke.”
The 10-man Millers saw Leeds equalise through Luke Murphy’s deflected strike 11 minutes from time, but fought back against the odds to take all three points.
“It was a horrible second half. When we went down to 10 men, I feared the worst because we couldn’t get anywhere near them. We were defending for our lives,” Frecklington said.
“But we did what we do best and kept going to the end.
“Danny Ward made a break and I gambled. Thankfully, we got the penalty and won again.”
Twentieth-placed Rotherham are now five points clear of the drop zone and tomorrow travel to Bristol City, who are one point above them, before a trip next Saturday to third-bottom MK Dons.
Warnock saluted the commitment in the Millers camp which has helped him engineer the club’s push for survival after they were six points adrift of a safety spot at one stage.
“It hasn’t just arrived. You have to work hard to gets spirit like that,” he said. “I have got Blacky and Jepo (coaches Kevin Blackwell and Ronnie Jepson) doing the business and I have got the icing on the cake really, so it is a good recipe.
“I have done it all my career and I enjoy it, I enjoy seeing lads like this. Some of those lads haven’t had that feeling, whereas I have had it all my career.
“It’s a great feeling Saturday night when you’ve played like that and got a win and you’re going home happy.”
Rotherham hope to avoid a three-match ban for Derbyshire, but the manager remains in defiant mood whatever the outcome of the appeal.
“It’s not a sending-off, but it will open the door for someone else if he is suspended,” Warnock said.
“Someone else will come in and score the winner.”