Nottingham Forest boss Chris Hughton did not agree with the decision by referee Tim Robinson to send off Nicolas Ioannou during his side’s 1-1 Sky Bet Championship draw at Luton.
With the Reds trailing to Glen Rea’s goal, the Cypriot defender saw red just before half-time for a lunging tackle on Martin Cranie.
Despite playing with 10 men for the second period, Forest levelled through Rea’s own goal to remain unbeaten since the former Brighton manager took over earlier this month.
Hughton said: “There’s no doubt when you see it, there’s no malice in what he’s done, absolutely and it’s a clear attempt to win the ball.
“I think it’s one he’s just misjudged slightly – but I’m absolutely convinced there is no malice at all.
“In the four games I’ve been involved in, I actually thought that was the best we’ve started.
“We were really bright, but it’s about getting the first goal.
“Is that a problem? Yes, as it always means that we’re chasing games, so we need to try and put on a performance in the first half that allows us to get the first goal.
“Another part is a part a manager likes to see which is a lot of endeavour in the side, and a lot of them not prepared to lay down and coming back into games.
“That’s a nice part, but yes I will agree that we need to start games better and try to get that first goal.”
A close first period was separated by Rea’s first goal in over two years, the midfielder slotting into the bottom corner after 22 minutes.
After Ioannou was dismissed, Forest had the better of things in the second period, levelling after Rea’s own goal under pressure from Ryan Yates.
The midfielder could have been on target again volleying over, while Simon Sluga denied Yates from distance, before home substitute Jordan Clark wasted a glorious late chance, shooting at visiting stopper Brice Samba.
Hatters boss Nathan Jones said: “The second-half performance we were passive, really lacklustre, didn’t start on the front foot and that enabled them to get a foothold in the game and start to gain a bit of confidence.
“We didn’t go after the jugular and that’s something that we’ve been used to doing in the past, but this is a relatively-new level for us and it showed.
“We’re disappointed as in the first half I thought we were excellent at times.
“We moved the ball, caused them real problems, took the lead and this is a very good Nottingham Forest side – let’s not forget about that.
“But (in the) second half we allowed the game to get slow and passive without any real penetration and ultimately they nicked a goal from something which we’ve highlighted for I don’t know how long.”