Aberdeen captain Joe Lewis is worried striker Sam Cosgrove is being given an unjust reputation after he was sent off for the second time against Celtic on Saturday.
The Dons forward took his tally for the season to 20 with a fine header at Celtic Park but was then sent off following a challenge on Kris Ajer in the 2-1 loss to the champions.
Lewis said: “Sam doesn’t have a bad bone in his body on or off the pitch. I can’t think of a terrible tackle he has put in or elbowed someone in the face. It’s difficult to understand why he has that reputation as I’ve not seen anything like that in training or games.
“Jayden Stockley was a marked man when he was here and everything he did seemed to end in a booking. Hopefully it is not that case with Sam. Referees don’t have an easy job and need all the help they can get but I’m saying that from so far away when the referee was closer. We’ve relied on Sam’s goals but we’re always a threat from set plays. It’s now up to other people to chip in with some goals if Sam is going to be out.”
Dons boss Derek McInnes accused Hoops defender Ajer of exaggerating the challenge in the hope of convincing referee Euan Anderson to take action while Lewis hopes the club will appeal the forward’s dismissal.
He said: “I was 100 yards away but it didn’t look like his feet left the ground. He was going at pace but Ajer has lost the ball after taking a loose touch. Sam has slid and won the ball and it looked like a harsh red card but the referee is closer.
“It is difficult to know whether he has made the most of it or was genuinely caught but the club will have a look and determine whether it is worth appealing.
“Nobody wants to see anyone injured and lunges off the ground with studs up should be red cards but Sam was on the floor. It’s a shame the game is going that way.
“Defenders being tackled know if they make the most of it they can entice a referee into showing a red card. I’m not saying that happened here but what used to be good tackles now obviously are not.”
Despite the defeat the Dons left Celtic Park encouraged by standing up to Celtic’s pressure following the 4-0 capitulation at Pittodrie earlier in the season. Lewis believes the return of Funso Ojo in midfield has been a key reason for the improved display.
He said: “Ojo was fantastic. He was really brave on the ball and his willingness to get on the ball was excellent. He said before the game to give him the ball and he was willing to take it under pressure.
“He has the strength and ability to do it and that is important. We’ve missed him throughout the season and it is great to have him back. Hopefully he can be fit for a while and be an important player for us.”