TONY Mowbray aimed his fury at referee Jarred Gillett as he told of his disbelief at the first half decision to send Dan Neil off in Sunderland's heavy defeat to Middlesbrough.

Having already received a yellow card for a first half foul, Neil was given his marching orders for dissent just seconds before the break.

Mowbray says Neil was sent off for swearing while he appealed for a foul, which the Sunderland head coach felt was extremely harsh, especially considering he claims Gillett had told both bosses before the game that he would referee the game "empathetically".

Mowbray said: "I don't understand the logic of it.

"I found it ridiculous that in the manager's meeting before the game, which I have to go to, he is saying that he is going to manage the game empathetically. Local derby, 45,000, and he gives a red for gesticulating.

"Dan told me that he's watched it back, he's 20 yards away and waved his arms and said that's an effing foul. That's the emotion of a young man in a local derby, and he's not swearing at the referee. I do that when I'm emotional, I don't swear often but when I'm emotional it can come out.

"Dan is a great kid, he's competitive. He's distraught because he thinks he's let the team down but I don't think he's done much wrong. In the context of the game, I don't think the decision was appropriate."

Mowbray added: "Second half, you could see they are a good team and I've said that all along. They're a good team with the ball, better than a lot of teams we've faced this season. It's difficult, they're a good team and they pick the right pass in that situation.

"The first half was a really good game, we've had I think just about the better moments. We felt confident.

"Dan is desperately disappointed in the dressing room, he is a local lad who feels the rivalry and significance of the game. He wanted to do well and my own view is that the referee has spoilt the game. Middlesbrough are a good team, it was a good game where both teams created chances.

"It's a good game and when the referee talks about empathy before the game, he does talk about gesticulating and not crowding the referee but I don't feel there is any empathy in showing a red card in the last minute of the first half. Surely, he's got to pull him over and use some empathy?

"Tell him to calm down, it's a great game with two teams going at it, 45,000 in the stadium, 'I'll have to show you another yellow if you shout or gesticulate more'. Where's the management from the official? I hope that's not being overly critical, I'm just disappointed because it was a really good first half."