KIERON Dyer last night sympathised with referee Graham Poll after Newcastle moved to the top of the Premiership.

Mr Poll sent off Craig Bellamy of Newcastle and Ray Parlour of Arsenal during the Magpies' action-packed 3-1 victory at Highbury and handed the visitors a controversial penalty.

After the whistle Gunners striker Thierry Henry had to be restrained from confronting the Tring official, and the Football Association are to view Poll's report, due to arrive today, before deciding what action needs to be taken.

But Newcastle midfielder Dyer, who made his first start since February, believes Poll was correct with both red cards.

"I feel really sorry for the referee," said the 22-year-old. "Just before Ray Parlour was sent off, when he was already on one booking, he kicked me off the ball and the referee warned him then.

"A few minutes later he went in on Alan (Shearer). I was standing right next to the referee and it looked like a foul straight away. It looked like a yellow card offence.

"As far as Craig's sending off is concerned he really didn't know where Ashley Cole was and tried to shield the ball. The fact of the matter is that he did connect and I saw Ashley on the floor with his mouth busted open.

"Again I felt sorry for the referee because he was simply applying the letter of the law. I know it was accidental but Craig's arm was raised."

But Dyer admits that he would not like to say whether Poll was right to award a penalty when Sol Campbell challenged Laurent Robert as the Frenchman homed in on goal.

"He's getting hammered for the decisions but I think that's unfair," said the former Ipswich man. "As far as the penalty was concerned I can't comment.

"I played the ball for Laurent but I was 80 yards away and it was a great run by Laurent. I actually thought Mr Poll was going to book him for diving because he took so long to make the decision.

"If Campbell's tackle was clean then he was unlucky but I do feel sorry for referees nowadays."

After substitute appearances against Ipswich, Chelsea and Blackburn, Dyer was thrown in for his first start because of Robert Lee's thigh strain.

It was a massive test for the youngster who, alongside Gary Speed, had to cope with the attentions of Patrick Vieira and Parlour in the middle of the pitch.

Dyer, back from shin-related injuries, said: "What a game to come into. I think they're the best team in the Premiership now that I've seen them at first hand.

"It was very hard for me and for the first 20 minutes I was nowhere near the pace of the game. I thought I struggled, but having Parlour and Vieira smashing into me from the start meant my leg was given a great workout.

"After that I settled down and when Arsenal went down to ten men it was the perfect tonic for me. My legs had gone by the end but it was a very important night for me."

After leapfrogging both Arsenal and Liverpool, Dyer admits Newcastle do not expect to be in the same position come the end of the season.

"I honestly believe that if Tuesday's game had remained 11 versus 11 then Arsenal would have scored three or four," he said.

"Thierry Henry is outstanding and they have class across the park and any side which tops Arsenal this season will claim the title.

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