HIBERNIAN defender Ryan McGivern last night accused Hearts midfielder Ryan Stevenson of deliberately trying to hurt the Easter Road club’s captain James McPake in a tempestuous Edinburgh derby.
Stevenson escaped even a booking from referee Willie Collum for a first half challenge which McGivern described as “disgusting”. It was one of the few talking points in a low grade 0-0 draw between the teams which leaves Hibs unbeaten in three games against their great rivals this season and still six points ahead of them in the SPL table.
Collum, who also turned down a Hearts’ first half penalty claim when McPake seemed to take Scott Robinson out of the play, was criticised by McGivern who insisted Stevenson should have been shown a straight red card.
“I think it was a disgusting tackle,” said McGivern. “I’ve seen it back again as well. The referee said both players were going for the ball. James is going from a different angle with a slide tackle.
“Stevenson has had a little look and he knows he is going to try and ‘do’ him. The referee has had a wee bit of stinker there for letting that one go. The ref had a good game tonight but not to see that one was pretty poor.
“For me, it was a red card tackle. James isn’t going to make a fuss about nothing, he’s not that kind of guy. Straight away, he said to the ref it was a two-footed lunge. I think everyone saw that it was, apart from the ref. James has got a nasty cut on his leg.”
McGivern’s manager was equally critical of the Hearts player’s challenge after seeing the incident again on a TV replay. “I’ve just watched it – it’s a shocking tackle,” Pat Fenlon said. “But you can’t be critical of the referee – I thought he refereed the game very well tonight. I’ve seen the tackle and it’s a very, very poor tackle. He’s left the ground, and he’s had a look first before he’s left the ground. But it happens and you just have to take it on the chin sometimes.
“He [McPake] is not badly hurt. He has a bad gash, James, but he’ll get over it. There could have been a bit of damage there, but he’s not to bad.” However, Hearts boss John McGlynn offered a different take on the same event. “I haven’t seen it again. It’s a derby game, it’s competitive. In derby games four or five years ago that wouldn’t have been an issue.”
Meanwhile, McGivern believes Hibs have gained pre-eminence from Hearts in the city rivalry this season as they look to put last season’s Scottish Cup final humiliation at the hands of the Gorgie men behind them.
“Since last season, I think it has been a total transformation,” added McGivern. “We have to be quite happy with where we are sitting in the league at the moment. There is a lot more to come from us, the manager has said that and we all know it. By the time we come back from the winter break, hopefully we’ll be ready to kick on and push up the table.
“I wasn’t here last season and there are quite a few other lads who weren’t involved in the Scottish Cup final. The Hearts fans like to keep bringing the 5-1 scoreline up but going on present form, we are unbeaten in three games against Hearts and we are happy with that. In all of the games against them since I’ve been here, we have stood up and been counted.
“We knew before we came here tonight that it was going to be tough and we would have to play very well to get anything out of the game. The pitch wasn’t great for a footballing spectacle and it wasn’t the best to watch. But from our perspective we are leaving here with a point and are still unbeaten against Hearts this season.”
Northern Ireland defender McGivern played a key role in preserving the 0-0 scoreline for Hibs in the closing stages when he cleared a shot from Hearts substitute Jason Holt off the line.
“I saw him cutting in and knew he was going to have a free shot at goal,” he said. “So rather than go to him, I thought I’d take a chance and get into a position to try and block the shot. Thankfully that was how it worked out.”
McGivern has impressed during his loan spell at Hibs and the Manchester City player is hopeful his time at the club can be extended until the end of the season.
“As it stands, I have one more game to play against Dundee after the break,” he said. “But in the next week or so, I’ll find out if I’m staying here or going back to Manchester City after that.
“I’ve enjoyed every minute of it here and I’d be more than happy to stay for the rest of the season. Since I’ve been up here, I’ve found the standard of the SPL very high. Celtic are still in the Champions League and that says a lot for Scottish football. It shows the SPL is a good standard of football.”