STEVE BRUCE last night blasted West Ham's Herita Ilunga for 'play-acting' and accused him of getting Black Cats striker Kenwyne Jones sent off.
Ilunga fell to the ground clutching his face on the stroke of half-time after Jones had shoved him in frustration after being roughed up by the Congolese international one time too many.
But, while Bruce admitted Jones should not have reacted, the Sunderland boss was furious with Ilunga’s theatrics.
“Kenwyne was wrong for what he did – I’m not going to defend him for that – but he pushed the lad, that’s all,” said Bruce.
“Then when you see the play-acting and the medical staff rushing on and putting ice-packs on his eye as though he had a cut or something . . . there was nothing there – it was all just a ploy.
“When the ice-pack came off, I was looking for a huge gash but there was nothing there – not even a bump or a bruise. And there wouldn’t have been, because Kenwyne never touched his face!
“He raised his hands, but usually you get away with it if you don’t touch someone’s face. He pushed him – but was it violent conduct?
“He was wrong and he will be punished under the club’s disciplinary code.
“To go on like Ilunga went on, I would have been embarrassed. I’d have smacked my kids’ arses if they had done anything like that when they were playing football.
“If we’re not careful, we are going to turn it into a game for softies.
“He gets the boy sent off.”
Jones will miss Sunderland’s next three games – against Spurs, Arsenal and Wigan – through suspension, and the Black Cats will also be without skipper Lorik Cana for the trip to White Hart after he picked up his fifth booking of the season.
“We’ll be without Kenwyne for the next three games, and we will also be without Cana for the Spurs game because he got his fifth booking today,” said Bruce.
“It’s just what we don’t need when we’ve got a few injuries, too.”
Defensive mistakes saw Sunderland go 2-0 down against the Hammers, with Guillermo Franco giving them the lead on the half-hour and Carlton Cole scoring six minutes later, but Andy Reid pulled one back before half-time and Kieran Richardson levelled 14 minutes from time.
Bruce said: “For me, that’s what the Premier League is all about – it was a fantastic game.
“The energy we showed, after going to extra-time and penalties against Aston Villa in midweek, was excellent – especially as we had to come from 2-0 down.
“The two goals we gave away were poor, and you get punished for those kind of mistakes in the Premier League. But Reidy gave us a bit of magic to put us back in the game in the first half and in the second half the players were absolutely terrific.”