Morton manager Jim Duffy has insisted he did not challenge opposite number Neil Lennon to a fight during the explosive finale to Wednesday night’s 0-0 Championship draw with Hibernian.
The ramifications of what has been dubbed the Battle of Easter Road will extend into next month as SFA Compliance Officer Tony McGlennan continues to gather evidence after both managers were sent to the stand at Easter Road.
Referee Nick Walsh’s report has already been submitted to the SFA but McGlennan will compile more evidence before deciding whether to issue a notice of complaint to one or both of the managers.
Duffy and Lennon clashed on the touchline during chaotic scenes where several players and members of the backroom staff from both clubs became involved in a touchline melee sparked by Morton striker Kudus Oyenuga’s late challenge on Jordon Forster.
Afterwards Lennon explained that he was not the type to back down after being “asked for a square-go” by Duffy, who stressed yesterday he is far too old to go about challenging people to fights.
The 57 year-old Morton manager denied he making any such invitation to Lennon, 45. Duffy did admit he regretted how a few moments of madness risked besmirching a largely controversy-free career. But he insisted he had not resorted to playground-style antics.
“Firstly, I would like to say that I watched the footage on television last night and, from my point of view, I was embarrassed when I saw my reaction,” said Duffy.
“I am not going to get involved in a public debate with the Hibs manager, but what I would state is that I categorically, 100 per cent did not ask for a ‘square go’ or use anything even remotely like that term.
“Yes, I acted immaturely – but I’m not 12 years old.”
It is understood Duffy and Lennon did not speak again after the final whistle. It’s often the case that managers cool down and shake hands over a beer or cup of coffee in a private room following games.
But they will meet again as soon as next Saturday when the teams play their final scheduled league clash, this time at Cappielow.
Hibs have already confirmed they are appealing the red card shown to defender Darren McGregor after he reacted to the late challenge on Forster from Oyenuga, who was also shown a straight red card.
An appeal had to be submitted by 3pm today and Hibs’ decision means McGregor is free to play against Dunfermline tomorrow.
Oyenuga faces further punishment on top of an automatic ban for his red card.
The Morton striker could be issued with a notice of complaint for simulation if McGlennan decides he feigned a blow to the head and caused the referee to make an incorrect decision in sending off McGregor.
Unlike in incidents described as “team staff misconduct”, player disciplinary issues are dealt with on a fast-track basis, meaning McGregor will learn his fate at a hearing at Hampden as soon as next Thursday, two days before the teams play again. Oyenuga could also be dealt with quickly.
Wednesday night’s result left leaders Hibs 10 points ahead of second-placed Morton and it is possible Hibs could be heading to Greenock next weekend knowing a win would land them the title – on a day when passions will already be runnng high.
But Lennon will fear missing out on his side’s run-in after the events of Wednesday night. Lennon, who was sent to the stand earlier this month during a game against Dundee United, faces a long-term ban if he is charged with misconduct.
Lennon must also serve a Uefa imposed ban when he is next involved with a team in Europe after being sent to the stand in his first match in charge of Hibs against Brondby in a Europa League qualifier.
The manager was unhappy with the performance of the officials that night, specifically when a Jason Cummings goal was ruled out for offside.
He is aware being sent to the stand for a third time in his short reign as Hibs manager does not look good. Despite pictures showing him encroaching onto the pitch on Wednesday night and tangling with players and Duffy, he was quick to defend himself afterwards.
“Here’s my take on it,” he said. “The guy (Oyenuga) tried to break my player’s leg. Darren goes over and he (Oyenuga) feigns a head butt, he does down holding his face but Darren did not make any contact.
“The next thing I have got is the Morton manager asking for a square-go, which is fair enough. I am not going to back down...But it will be ‘bad old Lenny, Lenny’s fault, Lenny started it, blah, blah, blah’.”
Deepening his regret at what happened, Duffy, who first entered management aged just 29 with Falkirk in 1988, had not been sent to the stand before Wednesday night.
“I have never been in this situation before so I don’t know how it works,” Duffy said in his post-match interview. “Maybe I should ask Lenny.”