MIDDLESBROUGH star Dael Fry came within inches of potentially suffering serious eye damage after a shocking challenge in their clash with Blackburn.
The centre-half was still in the area after going up for a corner, but when he went to connect with Paddy McNair’s cross, he was instead met by Jarrad Branthwaite’s dangerously high foot.
Neil Warnock and his team were outraged and – quite rightly – demanded a penalty as medics attended to a nasty cut just below Fry’s eye.
He said: “It was a game-changing incident. When I saw the mess I wasn’t bothered about the result.
“I don’t think he meant it but it was endangering the safety of a player – it can’t be any worse than that. He’s a millimetre from losing an eyeball.
“We miss out on a penalty, a sending-off and one of my best players going off – I’m distraught.
“How does he miss it? Tony will be delighted and feel like he’s won the pools.”
It was endangering the safety of a player – it can’t be any worse than that. He’s a millimetre from losing an eyeball
Despite Warnock’s protests, the referee and assistant were having none of it, and as Fry walked off to be replaced by 18-year-old Nathan Wood, his manager erupted at the officials after seeing the damage.
He roared: “How have you not seen that! Ref, do you want to come over and watch the TV? They’re saying it’s a penalty on Sky, what f*****g use is that?”
Even Blackburn boss Tony Mowbray seemed to agree as he laughed in the background, before he later he was heard saying: “Every week we get Dog and Duck officials.”
The game remained goalless at the break as the centre-half, who has been linked with Burnley, received stitches back in the dressing-room.
And it was not only Warnock who was left fuming as those on social media vented their anger on Twitter in the wake of a 1-0 defeat.
One person said: “You get pens given for the most minimal contact and a player throwing himself to the floor. Studs to face, could take his eye out and the ref gives nothing. What is happening to the game.”
Another added: “The refs in English football are horrendous, they haven’t got a clue what they’re doing at any level.”
And a third said: “Ref should be subbed off at half time. Shocking decision, not protecting the players.”
Former referee Jeff Winter then also piled in as he added: “Not only was it a penalty , but everyone missing the fact that’s it’s also a red card for serious foul play !!”
Blackburn had started the stronger and the Championship’s joint-top scorer Adam Armstrong went for his 17th of the campaign inside the opening five minutes, dragging a left-footer wide of the far post.
Rovers were then forced into an early change themselves as Bradley Johnson limped off after an innocuous challenge as John Buckley took his place.
And they earned victory in the 61st minute as Joe Rothwell popped up with the strike to send them into the fifth round.