IAN Foster was critical of referee Anthony Backhouse after his side's 3-1 defeat to Sunderland - with one incident in particular angering the Plymouth boss.

Foster said Backhouse should have been "disappointed" with his performance at the Stadium of Light - claiming a lot of soft decisions went Sunderland's way and angry that his side only had 10 men on the pitch when Jack Clarke scored.

Midfielder Adam Forshaw had been off the pitch receiving treatment but Foster felt he should have been allowed to return to the action before Clarke's strike.

He said: "My understanding is a player has to spend 30 seconds off the pitch, which he did, and they won't allow him on.

"I got told then the fourth official must get a signal from the referee to allow him back on, which he does straight after they score, which is disappointing. In that moment it's become very costly for us. He's got injured, he's received treatment, I don't understand why it's a punishment.

"I thought it was a quite, I'll try and choose my words carefully here, if I was the referee I'd go home disappointed tonight having watched the game back. I thought it was a very one-sided decision making process from him."


Plymouth led at the break through Ryan Hardie but Sunderland levelled early in the second half when Pierre Ekwah fired a free-kick from the edge of the box under the wall.

Foster added: "The manner of the (equalising) goal is disappointing. I'd like to look back at the 87 free-kicks the referee gave them on the edge of the box and pick the bones out of them all.

"We're disappointed that when they've shifted it the wall has broke and probably the worst free-kick they took ended up in the bottom corner. That's on us."

Clarke then fired Sunderland in front before substitute Jobe Bellingham wrapped up the victory.

Foster, whose Plymouth side played 120 minutes in the FA Cup against Leeds United in midweek prior to their Sunderland trip, said: "We respect the opposition and congratulate them on a wonderful second half performance.

"We have to take our medicine and learn from the errors we made in the second half. The first 45 minutes was an almost faultless away performance but we have to continue that.

"The 120 minutes in midweek took its toll but we won't use that as an excuse. We were undone in the second half and we have to congratulate Sunderland for that."