TONY MOWBRAY last night sympathised with goal hero Curtis Main after he was shown the red card just minutes after heading Middlesbrough’s much-needed winner against Leeds United.

No sooner had Main finished celebrating his goal, he was given two yellow cards inside a minute by referee Keith Stroud for separate incidents.

The first was for kicking the ball five yards back after Leeds had been awarded a free-kick and the second for deliberate handball when he jumped with Lee Peltier for a header.

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But Middlesbrough held on for the remaining two minutes – plus five minutes of added time – to record their first points of 2013 to stay within six points of the second and final automatic play-off place, now occupied by Hull City.

Mowbray said: “Without over-criticising the referee, I think he got it wrong, he is a young boy who was stretching every sinew because he wants to be a footballer and the bottom line is you suffer these incidents.

“But it was not deliberate handball in a million years. It was poor man-management from the referee, but it didn’t affect the result.

“Curtis is disappointed, frustrated, annoyed and angry but the referee is here to do a job, and I am sure he is a good honest guy. He just had a poor night. You can see he was stretching every sinew to get there and reach that extra centimetre.”

Main was signed two summers ago after being released from Darlington. The 20-yearold returned to action following a four month lay-off with a goal in Saturday’s defeat to Barnsley and followed that up with a second last night.

Mowbray said: “He was a free transfer from Darlington, who came on trial with the youth team and you can see the power and speed – his finishing is breathtaking at times.

“He has amazing qualities and yet is such a young player who doesn’t know the game because he hasn’t been educated, but he is potentially a special talent.”

Main’s excellent header eight minutes from time proved the difference against Leeds, who lost on Teesside for the first time since 1992.

More importantly, it ended a run of five consecutive defeats in the Championship which had threatened to leave Middlesbrough outside the playoff zone ahead of Saturday’s trip to Crystal Palace.

The Northern Echo: OFF YOU GO: Main is sent off for a second yellow card

“It was nice to get a win, it has been a while in the league, and keeps the points ticking along,” said Mowbray.

“They’re the type of team you have to compete against if you are going to win but I think we deserved it on the balance of play.

“There is never a lack of effort from the players but if you don’t match Leeds you will lose. It is more of a physical confrontation and we matched them and came out on top.”

As well as being without Main at Palace through suspension, Mowbray will also be without Jonathan Woodgate.

Woodgate had to be withdrawn in the second half feeling a tightness in his muscles after making a whole-hearted run and barge on Ross McCormack to prevent him going through on goal.

“If we had had a fully fit Jonathan Woodgate all season who knows where we would be,” said Mowbray, who rested Kieron Dyer last night for similar reasons.

“We are looking at probably seven to ten days. He is desperate to play. There is no one more positive in the dressing room.”

Leeds have taken one point from their last three matches and there were calls for Neil Warnock to resign from the 2,000 away fans last night.

Warnock said: “Unless I run on the pitch and put the chances in I don’t know what more I can do. They are not even difficult chances. I still don’t know how we didn’t score. We should be talking about three wins from three and we have one point.”