WHEN Neil Warnock walked down the tunnel, complaining to referee Tony Harrington about the decision not to send Jacob Sorensen off, it was clear he was going to have a bee in his bonnet when he entered the makeshift Riverside media room.

Warnock was right to believe Sorensen, already cautioned, ought to have been booked for the full-back’s blatant body-check on league debutant Sam Folarin as Middlesbrough went in search of a late equaliser.

Whether Sorensen deserved the first card for tripping Jonny Howson is another debate, while Middlesbrough were also fortunate Marvin Johnson was not penalised for kicking out at the end of a second-half tussle with Emiliano Buendia off-the-ball.

But a bigger issue for Warnock to work on this morning is how to get his side scoring more goals ahead of Derby County’s visit to Teesside on Wednesday.

Following a pretty tame first half, all the drama against Norwich arrived after the restart. Middlesbrough’s misfortune with Hartlepool official Harrington deciding not to send Sorensen off was only the half of it.

Make no mistake about it Middlesbrough should not have lost this game, regardless of the fact the Canaries had 11 men on the pitch for the duration of the 90 minutes (plus lengthy added time).

“I loved watching us, I really enjoyed watching us,” said Warnock, when he did take a break from criticising the officials.

Warnock’s well-drilled team had shown they could keep a dangerous Norwich at bay, so the ten-match unbeaten run looked like being extended.

Dael Fry, particularly, and the Boro backline impressed throughout, with the young centre-back making a string of good tackles and blocks to help protect Marcus Bettinelli’s goal.

Just when it seemed they would keep another clean sheet, substitute Hayden Coulson tripped Max Aarons in the area and with 18 minutes remaining the prolific Teemu Pukki rolled in from the spot.

That was the first goal conceded by Middlesbrough in 452 minutes of football, with Pukki showing Marcus Tavernier how to stay composed on the spot.

Earlier in the half, with the 50-minute mark approaching, Tavernier should have put Middlesbrough ahead after he was brought down by Teessider Ben Gibson.

Harrington ruled out the converted spot-kick, though, because he spotted a slip was followed by an illegal double touch - unlike when Bolo Zenden scored at the Millennium Stadium in 2004.

Warnock said: “That is how it goes, if you slip. We have had a few lads slip here. We will have to blame the groundsman; it was a game of two penalties.”

The experienced Middlesbrough boss, who has clearly got his squad passing the ball around with confidence, also suggested Bettinelli didn’t have a save to make “making the result even more disappointing”.

That is true. If he wants this Middlesbrough group to sustain a challenge for a promotion spot, though, he is going to need to find a way for his own team to test goalkeepers more.

No team outside the bottom three has scored fewer goals than Middlesbrough’s nine in the opening 12 matches.

And with the exception of Tavernier’s illegal penalty, Norwich goalkeeper Tim Krul only had one major save to make and that was from Johnson’s 20-yard first-half effort.

Strikers Chuba Akpom and Britt Assombalonga were unable to make an impact in and around the penalty area, hence why Norwich ended up nicking it – and that was achieved, largely, before the 85th-minute Sorensen foul that left Warnock seething.

He said: “Why haven’t we got officials that know what they are doing. It is a disgrace. I wish you could speak to him because when he tells me Sam is not going to catch it and you look at the video, one cut of grass, he will have three more cuts of grass before he is in the box.

“Why is he saying that? Is he telling a lie? Or did he actually think that. I will have to write down and ask. Did he see that?

“Maybe I should ask the referees chief. It will come back ‘no, he should have sent him off’. What good is that to me now? And I felt he had a decent game, so how do I mark him? I have had some nightmares with him. That’s as good as I have seen him referee and he got it completely wrong there.”