Liam Ridgewell apologised to his Aston Villa team-mates for being sent off against West Bromwich Albion yesterday but, after a dramatic 1-1 draw, it did not spare him a rebuke from David O'Leary.

Centre-back Ridgewell was dismissed in the 61st minute for clashing with Jonathan Greening, who was also shown the red card in a tense match at Villa Park.

O'Leary, the Villa manager, was furious with Ridgewell - "He will be getting penalised, definitely," he said - but the player claimed to be a victim of an "injustice" and "an overreaction" by the referee.

It did not help O'Leary's mood that Albion equalised through Paul Robinson in stoppage-time at the end of the game after Darius Vassell had given Villa a first-half lead.

Ridgewell says that both himself and Greening were unfortunate to be sent off. Referee Rob Styles had no hesitation in showing both players a red card after what was essentially a mild clash of heads. Both players will endure a three-match ban, although Albion could appeal against Greening's dismissal.

Either way, it was an unsavoury moment on an otherwise intriguing afternoon that did more for Albion's hopes of avoiding relegation than it did for Villa's ambitions of qualifying for the Uefa Cup.

"I have been in the dressing room to apologise to the [Villa] players," Ridgewell said. "I regret that it happened, especially as I have just come into the team because of an injury to Olof Mellberg. Now I will miss three matches and I am not even certain that I will play again this season.

"I think we were just standing there head to head.

I've not gone to butt him and he's not gone to butt me. I think it is over-reaction by the referee and it has spoilt the game. I would like to apologise to all the players but I do feel a sense of injustice.

"I'm not a bad person who goes out to butt people. If it is intentional, I would have been saying he's gone to butt me and he would have said the same about me, but that's not the case.

"He's stood there, I've stood there. I didn't expect to be sent off. I walked off thinking 'what is going on?'. I believe he is going to appeal and I am going to appeal, as well."

O'Leary, not known for his desire to back his players, says that Ridgewell deserved the sending-off and that Villa have no intention of appealing against the decision.

"The sending-off didn't help us and it won't help us for the next few games, because I'm really short of bodies in that departmen, and we lose him for three games," O'Leary said.

"I think the referee was right. You can't afford to stick your head in people's faces and try to be the big hard man. Those days are gone, without a doubt.

"You walk away from those sort of things and, apart from costing us the game, it will cost us even more in the next few games. I've no-one to play there now."

If it is of any consolation to Ridgewell and Greening, the consensus among the rest of the players was that Styles did overreact. Bryan Robson, the Albion manager, said much the same thing. It seems that only O'Leary backed the referee.

Robson said: "It was one of those 50-50 situations for a referee

where he could have said 'behave yourself and get on with the game'. I don't think there was a real serious blow from either player.

"Hopefully, the video will prove that and maybe the referee will reverse his decision but if that doesn't happen, we will appeal because Greening didn't do that much. The last thing we want to do is lose a player like him for three matches."

With Southampton losing away to Blackburn Rovers on Saturday, and Crystal Palace losing to Everton yesterday,

Albion's point means that they are out of the bottom three for the first time since November. Their prospects of avoiding relegation are increasing by the day.

"I thought the equaliser was never coming," Robson said. "I was disappointed the way we started off the game. I thought Villa were sharper than us, were winning more 50-50 balls and deserved the lead.

"But I am really pleased with the response of the players in the second half. I thought we deserved the point. O'Leary played a

diamond shape in midfield and Lee Hendrie was causing us problems, so we changed our system at the end of the first half and matched Villa. We looked better that way."

O'Leary was magnanimous in what must have felt like a defeat but he lamented the failure of his team to take their chances. It has been a problem all season.

"Good luck to West Brom, but the game should have been won and I think that game just about sums up our season," O'Leary said. "It should have been three points for us."