IN ONE of the uglier episodes so far this season, Hibernian’s last meeting with Kilmarnock evolved into an unseemly war of words over a contentious – certainly in the eyes of Kenny Shiels – penalty award.
But, with the spirit of Christmas evidently in the air at Easter Road, an olive branch has been presented and Hibs manager Pat Fenlon insisted he “respects” the outspoken style of his opposite number, despite the bitter recriminations.
Shiels accused Paul Cairney of conning the referee to secure a spot-kick under a challenge from Ryan O’Leary, allowing Leigh Griffiths to net the decisive strike in a 2-1 league win in September.
Despite pictures appearing to show it was indeed a foul, Shiels refused to back down, prompting an unusually strongly-worded statement by Hibernian, who said the Ayrshire club should be “embarrassed” by their boss’s conduct.
Fenlon was evidently keen not to re-ignite the feud, albeit it is patently clear the men employ hugely different methods, particularly in their dealings with the media. However, there was a hint of lingering annoyance over the incident, as the Hibs manager hinted that some managers have a habit of making excuses when their team is on the end of a defeat.
“I think it was proven what the correct decision was,” said Fenlon. “I can’t control what Kenny Shiels said but the TV pictures after the game showed us all what had gone on.
“I think sometimes we look for excuses when we lose matches instead of looking at how we have done in the game.
“I could have come in after Saturday and said the lineman should have given us a corner. He didn’t and Motherwell go up the other end and score. But Motherwell still have to go 110 yards up the pitch to score and that is what you need to look at.
“Managers are all different, we all have different ways of working and you have to respect that.”
Shiels is currently embroiled in a feud with the SFA after a series of controversial remarks.
Most recently he accused Andrew Dallas, who was fourth official at a home game against St Johnstone on 24 November, of acting in a “manipulative and devious” manner at the match and of “fabricating evidence” for a Judicial Panel hearing on 13 December.
“I was aware of Kenny when I played in Northern Ireland but I did not know him personally – I knew of him,” Fenlon added. “But I didn’t have much contact with him until I came to Scotland.
“I can only control what I do at this football club. Every other manager has a way of operating and I respect that, because this is a very difficult job.”
As he seeks to mastermind victory over his erstwhile sparring partner, Fenlon has pulled no punches regarding his anger at how Hibs capitulated against Motherwell last weekend.
Hibs were leading 2-0 with 25 minutes to play but threw their lead away and lost 3-2. Fenlon now wants a Rugby Park response to a “disgusting” defeat.
“I was disgusted because we lost the game,” the former Bohemians manager continued.
“The players were disgusted too. When you are leading 2-0 at home you simply should not lose football matches. I’m not worried about how they feel reading my criticism, they are big boys and they can handle it. They were not happy themselves and I didn’t need to tell anyone that what went on for the last half-hour was not acceptable.
“The annoying thing about last week is not a lack of effort, it is just concentration and being able to see danger a little quicker. You have to be able to handle situations. We defended very well, then conceded a goal and suddenly got very, very sloppy.”