BIRMINGHAM boss Lee Clark believed a “ridiculous” first goal had been the catalyst for his team's defeat by Cherries - but resisted the temptation to blame referee Mick Russell.

Cherries took the lead when Matt Ritchie netted in the 13th minute, the winger making the most of his marker Jordon Ibe being off the pitch replacing a split boot.

And while the St Andrew's faithful were unhappy referee Russell had not allowed Ibe to return to the action sooner, the official had correctly applied the letter of the law, a point not lost on Clark.

Clark said: “I could not comprehend the reasons or what I was seeing. I was in the stand at the time, watching it like everyone else.

“I tried to get explanations off people and one was telling me the referee had sent him off and another was telling me he wanted to come off because his boot had split. I couldn't believe how long it took to get the lad back on.

“I am not blaming the officials because, apparently, the laws of the game state that if it is equipment, the game has to stop before he comes back on.

“Now, what I need to ask is should my player have come off? Once he did, should we not have been quicker in getting a replacement boot to him?

“The fourth official said there needed to be a break in play. What I would have thought was to get on with the game, get information to the kitman that your boot is not really good and then quickly get it done.

“That goal sent us tumbling and knocked the group for six.”