Hope Akpan
Akpan could miss much of the rest of the season due to suspension Getty Images

Blackburn Rovers face losing midfielder Hope Akpan for an extended period after The Football Association adjudged that the three-game ban for pushing the referee during the defeat to Sheffield Wednesday would be insufficient. The sport's governing body have charged the 25-year-old with violent conduct, which is likely to keep him out for some weeks beyond the FA Cup fifth round tie with Manchester United.

Official Scott Duncan disallowed Akpan's goal in the defeat at Hillsbrough, with Akpan's protests leading to him shoving him to the floor. The former Everton and Reading youngster was dismissed for his actions but that penalty could yet become more punitive after The FA deemed "the standard punishment that would otherwise apply is clearly insufficient". Blackburn have also been charged with failing to control their players after confronting the referee.

Akpan, who has scored just one Championship goal all season, is already out for the visit of United as well as the league games against relegation rivals Burton Albion and Derby County. But any further ban could see him sidelined for much of the remainder of the campaign.

Paolo di Canio received an 11-game ban in 1998 for committing a similar offence after he pushed referee Paul Alcock in a Premier League match against Arsenal. Similarly, Southampton's David Prutton missed 10 matches after an altercation with match official Alan Wiley in 2005.

Owen Coyle, who described the decisions that went against Rovers as "beyond belief" is also without Elliot Bennett for the visit of United after he was handed a two-match ban for using insulting or improper language towards the officials at full-time in the 2-1 defeat. They join top scorer Sam Gallagher on the sidelines, after the 21-year-old needed 12 stitches to treat a cut above his knee suffered against Wednesday.

"They should have been down to ten men in the first-half," Coyle said, according to the club's official website. "I've got young Sam Gallagher in there with 12 stitches from such a deep gash across his knee. I don't know how serious that injury is going to be.

"The referee is yards from it and he gives a yellow card. I found it beyond belief at the time and I'm 50-yards away because we all knew the seriousness of it in how it looked and how high the boy's studs were."

United meanwhile are expected to be close to full strength at Ewood Park as they attempt to stay in a third cup competition. Jose Mourinho insisted prior to the Europa League win over St Etienne that his side would be taking the game seriously, despite having to fight on four fronts entering the twilight of the campaign.