(Reuters) - West Ham United boss Sam Allardyce laid the blame for his side's 2-1 defeat at Fulham on "irresponsible" captain Kevin Nolan who was sent off for lashing out in their key relegation clash on Wednesday.
The English Premier League London derby was level at 1-1 shortly before halftime when Nolan was dismissed by referee Mark Clattenburg after he pushed and kicked out at Fulham defender at Fernando Amorebieta as they chased a long ball.
The hosts took advantage of the numerical advantage in the second period to register the come-from-behind win when Dimitar Berbatov struck in the 66th minute after Steve Sidwell's first half effort had cancelled out Mohamed Diame's early goal.
"He is responsible for us probably losing the game more than anybody else," Allardyce told reporters of Nolan after the defeat which left them stuck in 19th place in the table.
"I don't think there is any doubt about that and for me the rest of the players did a fantastic job trying to stay I the game and then trying to come back from 2-1 down."
Nolan will be suspended after the red card which follows hot on the heels of his dismissal at Liverpool, where he was sent off on December 7 for a bad foul on Jordan Henderson in their 4-1 defeat.
Allardyce said he was perplexed by the reaction of the 31-year-old forward, who he worked with previously at Bolton Wanderers.
"Well I don't understand it as the indiscretion of what he has done has come straight after what he did at Liverpool so I'm going to have to find out what is wrong with him, there is certainly something wrong with his mentality at the minute," he said.
"At his age and experience and him as a player on the many years that I have known him I haven't seen this type of reaction, or these type of situations that he has put himself into.
"The responsibility of a player is to play the game the best he possibly can and to go out and be disciplined and go out and apply his talents in the correct manner within the rules of the game. Not to lose your cool, your head and not to do anything silly.
"You can expect it from a youngster ... but not Kevin."
Wednesday's defeat was West Ham's fifth in a barren seven-game spell where they have collected only two points to leave them deep in relegation trouble.
The loss was compounded by midfielder Mark Noble suffering a calf problem to only add to their fitness woes.
The defence has been decimated by injuries, while their attack has proved lightweight with the club's owners saying they regretted spending 15 million pounds on striker Andy Carroll who has not played this season because of injury.
Next up for the Hammers is an FA Cup third round tie at second tier Nottingham Forest on Sunday before the first leg of their League Cup semi-final against Manchester City on Wednesday.
They then face Cardiff City in another crucial relegation clash with Allardyce hopeful that some of his injured players can return soon.
"We are in a massive hole at the minute that we have got to dig ourselves out of and we will start digging ourselves out of the hole when we start getting players back fit again," said the former Bolton, Blackburn Rovers and Newcastle United boss.
"We have got to get the players back as quickly as we can, we got Stuart (Downing back today) but two have gone out, one irresponsibly and one injured."