RANGERS striker Jon Daly has accused Hearts of overreaction during an eventful Championship clash between the league’s top two teams on Saturday in which Steven Smith was sent off and nine players were booked.
Smith was later criticised by manager Ally McCoist for letting his team-mates down after a rash challenge on Hearts right-back Callum Paterson earned a straight red card from referee Craig Thomson.
Daly, however, took issue with opponents who hope to influence the referee’s decision by “screaming like he’s been shot by a sniper”, with Paterson believed to be the target for Daly’s anger, and that of several other Rangers players.
Kenny Miller, who was later substituted after a robust tackle which led to Kevin McHattie being stretchered off, could be seen shouting at Paterson after the defender went to ground following another challenge in the first half. Hearts’ 2-0 victory leaves Rangers trailing the leaders by nine points although Tynecastle manager Robbie Neilson later feared the cost of such a physical encounter.
While Paterson was unscathed after Smith’s challenge, Kevin McHattie was stretchered off after Miller’s tackle. Brad McKay also underwent a long period of treatment after a late challenge by substitute Kris Boyd. Neilson is most concerned about McHattie’s condition.
CONNECT WITH THE SCOTSMAN
• Subscribe to our daily newsletter (requires registration) and get the latest news, sport and business headlines delivered to your inbox every morning
“We need to get Kevin scanned, but it looks like his medial ligament,” he said. “Fingers crossed it’s not. Worst case scenario is that it might be three weeks, it might be three months,” he said.
Daly described the red card issued to Smith as a game-changer. Although McCoist was quick to point the finger of blame at his own players, the Ibrox striker complained that Paterson helped to influence the referee’s decision.
“I think it’s a man’s game and when a player gets hit and he goes down screaming like he’s been shot by a sniper I don’t think it really helps the case,” said Daly. “Obviously the referee hears a scream and sees the reaction of a player rolling on the floor and he thinks he has been seriously hurt.
“You have to cut the referee a bit of slack because if he sees that he thinks it’s a serious injury. You have to ask questions of the players if they are trying to con the ref or not. It seems football is changing and probably in my opinion not for the better.”
“For me I don’t think their reaction helps the situation, but that seems to be the way football is,” he added. “It’s changed an awful lot since I started playing. That seems to be coming in a lot more into the game, players trying to get people booked and sent off. For me I don’t think it’s the right thing to be doing but that is obviously the way football seems to be changing.”
Daly revealed that McCoist, the under-pressure Rangers manager, had told the players before kick-off that “we needed to win”. The Ibrox striker accepted the title is now for Hearts to throw away.
“When we come in after our games we will look at their results but first and foremost we need to make sure we get our results on the park and our three points,” he said. “And then we can look and see if Hearts have slipped up.” Rangers’ next league fixture is against Cowdenbeath on 6 December.
“It’s out of our hands,” added Daly. “It’s Hearts’ to throw away at the moment. We need to concentrate on our own results and hopefully close that gap pretty soon.”
Jamie Walker, who scored Hearts’ decisive second goal from the penalty spot after a barge by Ian Black, agreed that the early sending-off had been the significant moment in the game. However, like Neilson, he refused to get carried away by the nine-point gap that has now developed at the top.
“It is massive, but it’s only 14 games into the season,” he added. “There’s a long way to go and anything can happen. It’s only three defeats and we need to keep our feet on the ground and go again.
“We might go through a wee sticky patch here and there and not pick up as many points as we expect. So we just need to keep going and do the things we are doing and hopefully we can stay at the top of the table.”
SCOTSMAN TABLET AND IPHONE APPS