Newcastle defender Mike Williamson vehemently denies getting sent off on purpose
Mike Williamson is reported to have apologised for his sending-off for Newcastle at Leicester on Saturday but denied his manager John Carver's claim that his dismissal was deliberate.
A statement attributed to the defender was reported by the BBC on Sunday following the Magpies' 3-0 defeat at the King Power Stadium which left them in serious danger of relegation. Dutch full-back Daryl Janmaat was also dismissed to leave interim boss Carver fuming.
The statement attributed to Williamson by the BBC read: "I would like to take this opportunity to apologise to the Newcastle United supporters and my fellow team-mates for getting sent off during yesterday's game.
"There was absolutely no intent to hurt (Leicester's) Jamie (Vardy) or get sent off, but I recognise I should have been more composed and measured in my determination to win the ball. Unfortunately, it did the one thing that I never wanted to do, and that was hurt the team.
"Moving forward, I will do whatever I can to help my team-mates prepare for the next two games and fight to get back into the team when I'm next available.
"I've had the honour to play for Newcastle United for five years now, and I can genuinely say that I feel privileged to play for this football club. I would never do anything intentionally to hurt the team or its supporters."
Carver could not disguise his anger at his players after Saturday's defeat, which leaves them just two points ahead of bitter rivals Sunderland in 18th, who have a game in hand. The loss was Newcastle's eighth in a row.
''I thought he meant it,'' Carver said in his post-match press conference.
''When the ball went onto that left-hand side, my first reaction, five yards before making the tackle was, 'Don't do it' - and he did it.
''Vardy was off the pitch, Willo was off the pitch, the ball was off the pitch. There was no need to do it. I am not accepting that, especially in the situation we are in.''
Asked why Williamson might have done something like that on purpose, Carver said: ''I don't really know. It was just my thought when it happened. I thought he meant that and I have told him so. I have actually said this to his face.''
Carver's record since taking charge at St James' Park is dismal, having overseen just two wins in 17 games.
But Carver - despite increasing speculation over his future - insists he will not hide and wants his players to follow suit.
He said: "If someone was having a go at me I would want to prove a point - and I have had a lot of that over the last few weeks. I ain't crumbled, I ain't disappeared. I still come out here and stand up to be counted. It is important. I am not a shirker.
"I am an honest, straight guy and face it head-on. The day I don't do that, I may as well forget it. The players have to be the same. They have to face up.
"If they don't grow up and take it on the chin - go and hide behind a post. That is how seriously I feel about it."
Williamson was the chief target of Carver's ire, but Daryl Janmaat later followed him for earning a second booking in injury time and only Jack Colback and Tim Krul escaped Carver's criticism.
The frustration of fans was clear in the banner they held up during the game criticising the club and when they booed players at the final whistle.
Defender Paul Dummett said: "I am a fan just like they are and I feel the way they feel - very frustrated. We're massively frustrated and we need to put it right next week."
Leicester are still a point behind Newcastle but the difference in mood between the two clubs was stark.
Despite their midweek setback against Chelsea, the Foxes have been a team transformed over the past month and, after five wins in six, they seem to be heading in the opposite direction.
The stadium was rocking even before kick-off and the decibel level increased considerably when Leonardo Ulloa scored the first of his two goals inside the first minute.
The tone had been set when Newcastle gave the ball away from the opening kick-off and it was no surprise when Wes Morgan added a deserved second after 17 minutes.
Newcastle had a promising spell late in the first half but that probably had more to do with Leicester's energy levels dropping after a start of such high intensity.
The hosts returned refreshed after the break and put the result beyond doubt after 48 minutes when Ulloa struck from the spot after Emmanuel Riviere fouled Marcin Wasilewski.
From Newcastle's point of view the rest of the game was a shambles, with the two men dismissed for hacking at Vardy. Only the brilliance of Krul denied Ulloa a hat-trick.
Any suggestion that last week's "ostrich" spat between Leicester manager Nigel Pearson and a journalist might have unsettled the Foxes was emphatically dismissed.
With such spirit, Leicester are confident of survival but three games still remain and the job is not yet done.
Ulloa told the club's website, www.lcfc.com: "We knew we had four finals, now we have three.
"But it was a very important result, and not just the result - it was also important the feeling we had. We had control of the game.
"But we need to think about the next game now. If we can win it is three important points for us."