Manchester City manager Mark Hughes is disappointed no "leeway" was shown towards Shaun Wright-Phillips after the England winger was hit with a three-match ban.
Wright-Phillips was banned on Monday by the Football Association, who decided to act after taking a retrospective look at an incident involving the former Chelsea man and Stoke's Rory Delap at the Britannia Stadium on January 31.
Hughes told his club's official website: "We admitted at the time that there was a reaction, but there were reasons why Shaun reacted like he did."
Delap was sent off for kicking the ball from point-blank range at Wright-Phillips as he lay on the ground, but the retaliatory kick went unpunished by referee Martin Atkinson.
The FA's decision to punish Wright-Phillips after viewing television evidence has frustrated Hughes - who will be without the 27-year-old for the games against Portsmouth, Liverpool and West Ham.
He added: "We hoped that there would have been a little bit of leeway where the decision makers were concerned, but unfortunately I think the FA have to go by the letter of the law.
"They will support the referee's report, so unfortunately we will miss Shaun for the same length of time that Stoke will be without Rory Delap. That does not seem correct in my view, but that's where we are.
"There will always be grey areas open to debate, but I just think Shaun's case should have been judged on its own merits. Shaun has been really hard done by because of the severity of the punishment.
"It's a blow because he has been playing really well; he has such a positive impact, and his work-rate is such that he always causes a threat to teams. But there is nothing we can do now - we just have to get on with it."
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