Caley Thistle boss John Robertson rubbished Liam Polworth’s red card against Dundee United and accused referee Nick Walsh of trying to be “the star of the show”.
Walsh sent Polworth off three minutes into the second half for a high foot on United defender Mark Connolly, which Robertson said does not merit a red card.
The Caley Jags held the game scoreless until 12 minutes from time when Paul McMullan broke the tie, with the Highlanders now having to overturn a 1-0 deficit at Tannadice on Friday night.
A frustrated Robertson, who was already without Carl Tremarco, Sean Welsh and Tom Walsh through injury, now faces being without Polworth, who could well have played his last game for Caley Thistle given his impending move to Motherwell in the summer.
Robertson said: “It’s not a red card. But I can understand why he’s given it. He’s saying serious foul play, but Liam has not led with the sole of his boot, it’s his toe. Mark Connolly has put his head down and all Liam Polworth’s trying to do is nip it over his head with his toe.
“The annoying aspect is he was blowing for a foul for us after Charlie Trafford is fouled.
He goes to give us a foul but thinks Liam is going to win it and lets play go on.
“That’s the annoying thing – if he’d blown for the original foul it doesn’t happen. But that’s (referee) Nick Walsh – he wants to be the star of the show and unfortunately he is the star of the show again.
“It wasn’t serious foul play – Liam’s not that type of player and he led with his toe. You can appeal, but it has got to be a clear and obvious mistake from the referee and it’s not a clear and obvious mistake.
“We understand why he sent him off, because with where he was he thinks Liam Polworth led with the sole of his boot. It’s his toe and he has caught the guy accidentally – there is absolutely
no malice in it whatsoever.”
The scale of the task now facing Inverness is not lost on Robertson, who must come from behind in two days’ time and then overcome either St Mirren or Hamilton Accies to make a return to the Premiership.
He added: “It makes it hugely difficult. We were the better side in the first half and our tactics
and formation were good.
“We’ve hit the inside post and the goalkeeper has had a couple of good saves, a couple blocked.
Everything was going to plan and then it’s changed because the referee decides he wants to be the main man.”