Garry Flitcroft's new team-mates backed Rovers' devastated red-card victim to the hilt after he was sent off just three minutes in to his Rovers debut, on this day in 1996.

Rovers' £3 million signing from Manchester City was given his marching orders less than three minutes of his debut at Ewood.

There were harsh words for referee Jeff Winter, perhaps influenced by the actions of Everton striker Duncan Ferguson, with Rovers considering appealing the decision once they had viewed video evidence of the clash with Everton's Tony Grant.

Defender Chris Coleman reflected the feelings in the Rovers dressing room after the 3-0 defeat when he said: "I was only 10 yards away and it didn't look a bad offence to me.

"Garry's not like that anyway.

"We lost the game on that decision. We were disappointed with it and with a few decisions he made after that with the crowd on his back.

"Garry's devastated. It was his first game and he wants to make an impression.

"He was looking forward to it and this has killed him. His head is on the floor."

On the weekend that heralded the arrival of British Summertime, it was only a Winter's tale at Ewood Park - referee Jeff Winter.

At the moment of impact between Flitcroft and Grant, few in a near full house could have felt the red card was about to be shown, despite Everton boss Joe Royle's post-match condemnation of an "awful challenge".

Though Rovers battled for some reward, it was almost inevitable that they would eventually crack, Daniel Amokachi breaking the resistance with 19 minutes to play, before Andrei Kanchelskis' double gave the scoreline a one-sided look.

Mike Newell was similarly upset, saying: "I thought he was just protecting himself, as you do. Everybody jumps with their arm up if it's a 50-50 ball."

"He was obviously enthusiastic but he had no reason to hurt a player." Newell felt that Ferguson's reaction definitely had a bearing on the decision to dismiss Flitcroft.

But the striker was scathing of refereeing standards in general.

He said: "I think they have been influenced by the rules which have been brought in but I think the standard is diabolical. I don't think they know the difference between a foul and a genuine attempt to get the ball.

"I do think that people are trying to make a name for themselves.

"They are on TV and they are becoming celebrities.

"The more people make of it, the more status they get and the bigger the influence they have on the game.

"Players are getting suspended for fun.

"Centre halves are getting suspended around Christmas because they tot up the points.

"The likes of Colin Hendry and Dave Watson are honest, genuine centre halves. They are not dirty players but you can't tackle now.

"And you can't talk to referees, you can only tell them what you think.

"There's nothing wrong with a competitive game."

Rovers: Flowers, Berg, Marker (Fenton, 81), Coleman, Kenna, Ripley, Sherwood, Flitcroft, Wilcox, Gallacher (McKinlay, 71), Newell

Sub: Croft