Hibs boss Pat Fenlon today refused to point the finger of blame at blundering referee Alan Muir, insisting: “We all make mistakes.”
Muir left Fenlon’s players stunned as he awarded Dundee United a last-gasp penalty as Gary Mackay-Steven was tripped by Ryan McGivern, an incident which clearly happened outside the area.
The ref waved away the protests of McGivern and his team-mates as did his assistant Graham McNeillie, leaving Johnny Russell to claim a point from the spot.
Up until that moment Hibs looked on course for victory, skipper James McPake and Leigh Griffiths, with a stunning 18th goal of the season, cancelling out John Rankin’s “freak” opener for the Tayside club, goalkeeper Ben Williams having crashed a clearance off the midfielder’s back.
Instead, Russell’s 20th goal of the campaign, only the second player in seven attempts to have beaten Williams from the spot, robbed the Capital club of two precious points in their battle for a top-six finish and a place in Europe.
A win would have seen Hibs go joint third with Motherwell and St Johnstone, one point behind second placed Inverness Caley Thistle. Instead they dropped from fourth to sixth, a point in front of Kilmarnock, Aberdeen and United who occupy seventh, eighth and ninth places respectively.
Fenlon, though, adopted a diplomatic approach, saying: “I have watched it again and it is a good foot outside the box. But these things happen, we all make mistakes and we have to get on with it.
“I didn’t speak to the ref. I’m not one that goes banging on the ref’s door. It’s hard enough a job without me doing that. I have probably made plenty of mistakes over the course of the season so you just have to live with it and hope they balance themselves out over time.”
Although disappointed with the result, Fenlon revealed he was “chuffed” with Hibs’ performance, and he called on them to build on the four points taken from away matches with St Mirren and United when they face Kilmarnock at home on Wednesday night.
He said: “We were disappointed not to pick up the three points but it is important we take the positives out of the game rather than look at a mistake by the ref. I couldn’t have asked for any more. We created chances, enough to win the game. We played well and defended well but it is out of your control when things like that happen. We passed the ball well, particularly in the first half. We weren’t so fluent in the second when Jon Daly went up front for them and they caused us a few more problems without really carving us open too many times.
“In the last two games we have played really well and picked up four points out of six on the road at difficult venues. We have to make sure we make that count when we go home on Wednesday.”