Chris Hughton has called for a change to the disciplinary system after seeing a key man banned for three games.

The Albion boss said he was “astonished” to see Dale Stephens ruled out of the play-offs after an appeal against the red card shown to him at Middlesbrough was dismissed by the FA.

He would like to see a switch to a European system, where straight cards are punished on their own merits in terms of the length of suspension.

Stephens received an automatic three-game ban after being red-carded by Mike Dean.

Hughton said: “You have a player going for the ball and winning the ball. I accept that his foot was off the ground but he has great balance, wins the ball and comes away with it.

“It is a system that still says he has a three-game ban.

“Most people that I’ve spoken to have said it wasn’t a red card.

“But, even if we admitted that it was close, how can you have a structure that says that that type of incident will receive the same punishment as somebody who it’s deemed, and everybody has seen, committed a reckless challenge.”

Steve Sidwell is expected to replace Stephens in midfield as Albion go to Sheffield Wednesday tomorrow for the first leg of their play-off semi-final.

Hughton expressed confidence in his squad’s ability to respond to the loss of their influential seven–goal midfielder.

But he said: “Dale Stephens is the one that mostly I feel for because he is a player who has played all season and played ever so well all season.

“Because of a system, he will miss three games and arguably two or three of the most important games in his career.”