CHRIS McCann has jumped to the defence of red-carded midfielder Dean Marney, insisting his team-mate only had eyes for the ball, and won it fairly.

Burnley were left to play the last half-hour of the game with 10 men after Marney was given his marching orders for a robust 50-50 challenge with Birmingham City’s Paul Robinson.

McCann felt the punishment did not fit the crime, but sensed the writing was on the wall after the referee had words with Marney after an earlier midfield battle.

“I just thought maybe from Deano’s tackle in the first half maybe the referee had him in his mind a little bit. I thought they were two clean tackles – they were good, clean tackles as well, there was nothing malicious in them, it was just a strong tackle,” he said.

“I think most referees would have probably played on.

“I think it’s part and parcel of football, you’ve got to go in tough.

“To be fair to Dean he just went in to win the ball. He doesn’t have a malicious bone in him, he’s a fair player but unfortunately the referee saw otherwise.”

But McCann saw nothing wrong with Marney’s endeavours to win the ball.

“If the ball’s there to be won you’ve got to go and win it,” said the 25-year-old. “Deano’s no exception to that.

“It was a frustrating afternoon for us. We thought we probably could have come out with a result but unfortunately we didn’t.”

Birmingham took the lead in the 21st minute with their first real chance of the game, when Curtis Davies headed in Rob Hall’s corner at the near post.

Ross Wallace equalised from the spot 10 minutes into the second half, after Junior Stanislas was brought down by Robinson as he ran on to Sam Vokes’ flick-on.

But the game changed when Marney was given his marching orders, and Birmingham capitalised when Marlon King fired in a last-minute volley.

“It was a tough one to take. It was a really frustrating afternoon for us,” said McCann.

“We created a lot of chances and on another day they would have probably gone in.

“Ingsy had a great run and a hit off the bar, Vokesy’s had a couple, and it’s just a pity one of them didn’t go in because I felt after the sending off we had a 10-15 minute period where we were the ones pushing on and looking like we were the ones that were going to score.

“But unfortunately it wasn’t to be. The sending off was a massive turning point for us.

“If we had gone on and scored we would have been pretty comfortable.

“It was a big decision and unfortunately it didn’t go in our favour.

“The referee’s decision is final and we’ve just got to take that on the chin and move on.”