Gary Caldwell criticised referee Ross Joyce’s decision to send off Jack Aitchison following struggling Exeter’s 1-1 draw at Stevenage.

Aitchison received a second yellow card for apparent dissent in the 43rd minute of the Sky Bet League One contest, with Carl Piergianni heading Boro into the lead shortly afterwards.

Half-time substitute Yanic Wildschut’s first league goal for the Grecians within two minutes of the restart earned the 10-man visitors a battling point but Caldwell, who was booked himself following Piergianni’s goal, could not hide his frustration with the officials.

“We don’t know what he’s sent him off for,” he said.

“He hasn’t sworn, all their players said he didn’t swear at the ref and he’s chosen to send him off. And when we ask him politely why at half-time, he refuses to tell us.

“Only we were getting booked in this stadium because referees are intimidated at this stadium.

“We are very respectful, everything goes against us and we have to deal with that. We dealt with it in a really positive manner.”

The Grecians’ winless league run stands at 12 matches but their under-pressure boss believes the second-half fightback shows the squad are still playing for him.

“I have never doubted that for one second,” he said. “I really believe in this group of players, they give so much.

“A lot has gone against them in recent months and when that happens as a footballer, confidence gets affected and it’s a difficult thing to play through.

“You have seen their character and resilience and we have to use this as a springboard going into the coming games.

“They can all be really proud of how they went about the second half, both the way we defended and when we had the ball.”

Caldwell’s opposite number Steve Evans felt Aitchison should have seen red for the challenge which brought his first yellow card but admitted his side did not do enough to win the game, despite Jordan Roberts and Elliott List spurning fine chances late on.

“We were far from our best,” he said.

“We looked as if Tuesday night’s game took its toll on us in terms of sharpness and freshness. We were off it the first 25 minutes then we got it into the game.

“With the sending off, my only question is why is he even on the pitch to receive a second yellow? He should have been in the shower room after running up and kicking Louis Thompson off the ball.

“Did we do enough in terms of the final pass? No. Did we miss a couple of huge chances? Yes.

“We had great opportunities, great overload, we had command of the ball. But our quality, for once, wasn’t there.”