The New Saints boss Craig Harrison says he has no complaints with Steve Saunders’s sending off in their Irn-Bru Cup semi-final defeat at St Mirren, as TNS suffered rare back-to-back defeats.
After their unbeaten run in the league came to an end at Carmarthen last week, TNS came agonisingly close to a cup final with Dundee United after Ryan Brobbel gave them a deserved first-half lead.
But the Scottish Championship side came out firing in the second period and with Saunders receiving a straight red for dangerous play, the Saints were up against it as Harrison acknowledged afterwards.
“We have no complaints about Steve’s sending off – none at all,” said Harrison.
“It was a reckless tackle and in modern-day football, you just can’t make tackles like that. As soon as Steve went in, I fully expected the ref to bring his red card out.
“It’s hard as the whole complexity of the game changed with the sending off within the first 20 minutes of the second half.
“After that, it’s 20-25 minutes with our backs against the wall. We’ve been hit with a double whammy as not only has Steve been sent off, but it was a great free-kick too.”
Harrison admitted his players couldn’t quite do what he wanted them to do at the break and failed to weather the St Mirren storm after their Scottish hosts were given a rocket by boss Jack Ross.
He added: “Unfortunately, the second half belonged to St Mirren.
“I thought in the first half we were excellent and we deserved to be 1-0 up. We made the better chances, we had the better of the possession and certainly had the better opportunities.
“We knew their manager had a right go at them at half-time and they came out flying. The last thing we said to them was that we need to get through that 20-minute period, frustrate them and then go get on the ball and play again,
"But within those 20 minutes we found ourselves going from being 1-0 up to being 2-1 down and a man sent off, which changed the complexity of the game hugely."
Harrison's thoughts have already turned to another cup fixture as they host Bangor City at The Venue in the JD Welsh Cup quarter-final on Saturday (2.30pm) - a trophy they are desperate to defend. He said 'We have a week to prepare for Bangor in the Welsh Cup.
"We're looking forward to it as it's our cup to defend.
"I've just said that to the players - of course they're disappointed as they've just been knocked out of the semi-final of a cup.
"When we look back and reflect on it, we've played well throughtout the cup. Let's move on and go and defend our Welsh Cup.
"Bangor have been playing well and it will be another tough game."