MIFFED Cherries defender Adam Smith accused some Millwall players of “trying to get me sent off” during his unhappy return to the Den.
Smith saw his second full debut for the club brought to a premature end when he was substituted during the interval of Cherries’ 1-0 defeat on Saturday.
The 23-year-old, who spent time on loan with the Lions last season, had been treading a disciplinary tightrope having picked up a booking on the stroke of half-time.
Smith was cautioned by referee Michael Naylor for charging into Millwall skipper Alan Dunne just minutes after he himself had been poleaxed by Nicky Bailey, who also received a yellow card.
As tempers flared, both on and off the pitch, the flurry of activity prompted a heated exchange between Cherries management duo Howe and Jason Tindall, and Lions boss Ian Holloway.
Smith, who had also been sub-bed when he helped Derby claim a 5-1 win at the Den in September, felt he had been targeted by some Millwall players.
He told the Daily Echo: “The manager took me off because they were trying to get me sent off and the crowd were on my back. Although I was disappointed, it was probably a sensible idea.
“I have been working hard to try to get in the team and was frustrated I couldn’t complete the 90 minutes. But it was probably the most sensible thing to do for my safety as well.
“I played here at the start of the season for Derby and it was the same then. Obviously, they don’t forget and I had to come off then as well. It is what players have to deal with and I thought I dealt with it okay.”
Smith, who had been restricted to four substitute appearances for Cherries since his move from Tottenham in January, started in place of Simon Francis.
Boss Howe said: “I felt for Adam because I had to take him off as he was on a yellow card. With his history with Millwall, it was a really difficult one but I thought he handled it really well.
“I couldn’t see the team going down to 10 men through no fault of Adam’s because I thought the situation was spiralling out of control. I was pleased with his performance.”
Despite losing out to Martyn Woolford’s 29th-minute winner, Cherries finished 10th in the Championship, while Doncaster and Yeovil, both promoted alongside Howe’s team 12 months ago, were relegated.
Meanwhile, Howe confirmed striker Lewis Grabban had missed Cherries’ trip to the Den after a knee injury – which the player had been carrying for a month – had flared up in training.