Jack Ross has leapt to the defence of Ian Harkes after the Dundee United midfielder’s match-altering red card against Kilmarnock.
Harkes, 27, received his marching orders following an ill-judged sliding challenge on Liam Donnelly, with Willie Collum flashing a second yellow card at the American — albeit it seemed to take the whistler a moment to realise that was indeed the case.
Harkes was already on a caution after attempting to prod possession away from Sam Walker as the Killie keeper threw the ball into the air ahead of launching a clearance up the pitch; an eminently avoidable booking.
However, Ross insists ‘conscientious and honest’ Harkes was not guilty of petulance. Instead, it was a misinterpretation of the rules.
“I’ve not seen the second yellow back yet so I can’t say if it was deserved,” noted Ross.
“The first one is [justified] by the letter of the law. It’s a caution. It’s a bit of an anomaly as people would say the ball in play when he [Walker] throws it out his hands — but it is a cautionable offence.
“Ian is a smart guy. He’s not done that believing he would get a caution.
“So, it’s a learning experience.
“He’s really conscientious and honest in what he does. I don’t mind mistakes as long as players are authentic in what they do and I believe I have that with this group.”
United took the lead at Rugby Park through a Dylan Levitt thunderbolt from 20 yards on the cusp of half-time. After the break, the visitors had settled into a comfortable pattern.
And even after Harkes’ dismissal, the Tangerines were diligent and resolute.
As such, Ash Taylor’s 90th-minutes leveller — while merited on the balance of play — was a galling finale for the Terrors.
“I couldn’t necessarily say we deserved to be ahead at half-time,” acknowledged Ross. “But we were tough and resilient.
“We scored a brilliant goal and, in the second half, I thought we were really good and had a lot more control of the game.
“We looked like we would be the ones to extend our lead but the dynamics can change at any point — and on this occasion it was through the red card.”