Dundee United manager Peter Houston has warned the game is in danger of turning into a farce and fans could be driven away after three of his players were shown straight red cards against Rangers in the Clydesdale Bank Premier League.

Mihael Kovacevic, Sean Dillon and Morgaro Gomis were all dismissed for denying clear goalscoring opportunities after all three conceded penalties as the Scottish champions ran out 4-0 winners at Tannadice.

Referee Willie Collum also sent off Aberdeen's Andrew Considine in similar circumstances in the Scottish Cup at the weekend and Houston could not hide his frustration when asked for his thoughts on the explosive match. He said: "Where do you start? What is the game coming to?"

He added: "There were three red cards and, if I thought the discipline was poor here at Dundee United, I would be reacting to that. But I was proud of the Dundee United players for the way they tried to play but when you lose a second and third man, it's down to damage limitation.

"I'm disappointed with the fact that the game, in my opinion, is becoming a bit of a farce if those are straight reds. It all starts with Considine on Saturday and sets a precedent. If that's the letter of the law, then we will drive punters away as far as I'm concerned. There is no point speaking to the ref because they will all get round together and say, by the letter of the law, it's a straight red.

"I just fear for driving punters away if we are getting down to a farcical situation with three players sent off. They might technically be right but they are spoiling the game. Was there a tackle in the game? That's what we need to ask. To come out of that game with three players sent off, I worry about the game.

"Would you pay good money for players to be red-carded for such simple offences? Two of them, the second and third, I don't think were red cards. The first one could have been."

Steven Whittaker converted twice from the spot, before missing the third penalty, on a night when Nikica Jelavic and Kyle Lafferty were also on the scoresheet as Rangers moved four points clear at the summit.

Manager Walter Smith said: "If we look at the penalties, I don't think anybody could argue that each was a penalty. Under the letter of the law at the present moment, the referee has no other option but to send the players off. It happens and it obviously dictated the manner in which the game was going to be played, especially after the second ordering-off.

"Overall, it was a strange set of circumstances in the game and, I stress, I think the referee was perfectly correct. I don't think he had any other option."

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