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Harris ‘surprised’ by red card at Middlebrough

Neil Harris has defended his conduct after he was sent to the stands for striking Middlesbrough first-team coach Leo Percovich during his Millwall side’s 1-1 draw at the Riverside.

Referee John Brooks issued a red card after Harris clashed with Percovich as he attempted to get the ball back into play shortly before the interval.

Percovich was holding the ball in his arm, and Harris made contact with the Uruguayan as he swung to try to dislodge it.

The Millwall boss accepts he should not have strayed into the Middlesbrough technical area, but feels his dismissal was harsh.

Harris said: “I don’t think there’s a problem between me and the Middlesbrough staff. What I will say is that I went into their technical area, and that’s a no-no. So apologies to Jonathan (Woodgate) and his group for that.

“We were so dominant in the first half that I was trying to hurry along with the game. He’s got the ball under his arm, and I sort of wanted to hit the ball from under his arm. It wasn’t aimed at the coaching staff, but he’s moved and I’ve hit his arm.

“There’s no issue there, and I was a little bit surprised I was sent to the stand for it considering there was never going to be an issue with Middlesbrough’s coaching staff. I’m a little bit disappointed with that when I thought the fourth official might have had a little bit more of an input into various decisions on the pitch.”

Woodgate also felt Brooks could have handled the incident differently, and did not feel a red card was warranted.

The Middlesbrough head coach said: “It’s one of those things that happen in football, and I don’t want to see Neil get sent off. I didn’t think he deserved to.

“He’s a fantastic guy and a top manager, and I think the referee can deal with that better. There’s no point in giving him a red card for the sake of giving him a red card.”

Paddy McNair’s opener was quickly cancelled out by Millwall’s Tom Bradshaw but Woodgate was unhappy with Brooks’ failure to award his side a penalty despite two strong handball appeals.

Britt Assombalonga’s second-half header from a Jonny Howson cross appeared to strike Millwall full-back Mahlon Romeo on the arm, while Marvin Johnson fired a late shot into a group of defenders and was convinced he should have had a spot-kick.

Woodgate said: “I don’t know if you’ve seen the two handballs, but they are blatant handballs. These are the decisions which are going against us at the minute, which is not ideal.

“Sooner or later we’ll get the rub of the green, but it’s not very often you get two in a game that are blatant handballs.

“I’m not going to start complaining, that’s life. You reap what you sow sometimes, and decisions will turn for us, but they are blatant, blatant handballs. You can blatantly see they are two handballs.

“I’ll try to speak to the referee. It’ll be civilised, I won’t go into his room ranting and raving or fighting or anything like that, I’ll go in and have a civilised conversation with him.”