Neil Warnock was furious with the referee's panel to give inexperienced referee Andy Madley his Cardiff's side's game with Watford on Saturday afternoon.
Cardiff were outclassed for much of the game as they found themselves three goals down before scoring twice late on as the match ended 3-2 to the Hornets.
The Welsh club's struggles on the road this season continued and after the final whistle, Warnock took issue with the man in the middle.
Second Premier League game for Madley
The referee in charge of the fixture has officiated a whole host of Championship fixtures but was given just his second match in England's top flight this Saturday.
Although Madley didn't have many big calls to make, Warnock was furious with a challenge on goalkeeper Neil Etheridge from Troy Deeney late in the game which went unpunished. "I thought Troy was lucky not to get a card if I'm honest. Conditions were poor but once he started sliding in and the goalie was going to get it I thought he could have pulled his foot away."
It was a decision that provoked Warnock into posing the question of why an experienced referee in Andre Marriner was the fourth official, rather than being on the pitch himself. "Whether it's just because it's only Cardiff City, well we'll let someone have an experiment today. We've got one of the best referee's at the sideline. I'm flabbergasted, we're in the Premier League. Let them experiment with the top, give them a top game and see how he goes," he asserted.
Warnock claimed he also displayed his displeasure to the officials themselves: "I've mentioned it in the referee's room when I've been in and I don't understand it all. But that's for Mike Riley and his bosses. I wish they'd put someone else alongside me that was inexperienced, rather than Andre Marriner, that was rubbing it in for me."
Etheridge in top form
Despite that challenge from Deeney and conceding three goals, the Cardiff goalkeeper had a top afternoon. Without him, the result could have been far worse as he denied Roberto Pereyra on three separate occasions with some smart saves. Reflecting on his display, Warnock commented: "There were certain things he was doing wrong and probably would have got beaten by them a few weeks ago because he's fidgeting too much but now he has strong feet. It gives him a better chance to be agile."
The Cardiff manager also labelled the things the 28-year-old can get better at whilst also hailing the impact of the club's goalkeeping coach. "He's [Etheridge] still got things to learn. In the last away match I think his positioning was slightly wrong and he's been working on that. His kicking can be a bit better but he's improving and I think he's feeling comfortable now at this level. All credit to Andy Dibble on that."
Individual errors costly
All of Watford's goals were top quality. Gerard Deulofeu danced through the Cardiff defence for the opener, before curling efforts from Jose Holebas and Domingos Quina put the hosts in control. However, Warnock wasn't pleased with the way his team conceded. "Once again individual errors for the goals. We'd have got away with some of those in the Championship but you don't get away with it in the Premier League."
Despite that, the experienced manager was still able to praise the effort of the Cardiff players. "I thought second half we started alright and then another goal like that conceded knocks you back, but all credit to the boys, they never gave in and went to the end."
Warnock also revealed what Cardiff's game plan had been in the build-up to the match. "We thought if we could keep it steady for 60 minutes we'd have the people on the bench to cause them problems for the last 30 but you don't legislate for losing two or three goals by that stage," he added.
Competition for places and January transfer window
The 70-year-old was right in the fact Cardiff have options off the bench. Bobby Reid made an instant impact by scoring their second goal of the match after being substituted on and competition for places is something that is pleasing Warnock. "[Reid] has done well in training this week. It's hard finding a place for him at the minute. He's really working his socks off, as is Kadeem Harris who was unlucky today.
"I played Junior [Hoilett] because he's been brilliant this week in training and I went with my gut instinct with him. It's good that they're battling for positions," Warnock explained.
The Cardiff manager's press conference was finished by talking about potential options in January, but he recognised the struggle a team like his might have in terms of making new additions. "There's no point in bringing them in if they're not better than what we've got. We're at a different level to the top half of the Premier League so we've just got to see if we can find value for money somewhere. If we can't then so be it."
The Bluebirds currently sit two places above the relegation zone in 16th place and are four points ahead of Huddersfield in 18th. However, they welcome Manchester United to the Cardiff City Stadium next weekend.