Hibs boss Pat Fenlon today backed Paul Cairney, insisting he is no cheat after the midfield star was booked for “diving” as the Easter Road side fought back to claim a point at Rugby Park.
Fenlon was left furious following the yellow card dished out by referee Bobby Madden after Cairney had gone down under the challenge of Kilmarnock defender Michael Nelson resulted in his player picking up a one-match ban. Cairney, though, will be available for the remainder of the festive programme before sitting out the visit of Dundee on January 19.
Cairney was involved in another controversial spot-kick incident earlier in the season when Killie boss Kenny Shiels accused him of going down too easily for what proved to be the winner for Hibs and today the former Partick Thistle player admitted that may have gone against him this time round.
Asked if he felt that was the case, Cairney said: “Maybe. I don’t know what the ref’s position was, but I told him to look back at it on TV. But it was a stonewaller. The boy caught me. I’m an honest player and I wouldn’t go down easily.”
Even Nelson himself conceded it could easily have been a penalty, revealing there had been contact and while he wouldn’t have been happy to see a spot-kick awarded, he insisted Cairney’s booking was “doubly harsh”.
Today Fenlon claimed losing Cairney, who has been one of Hibs’ most consistent players since his summer arrival from Firhill, for a game was more annoying than the decision itself. He said: “The players say it was a penalty and Paul says he was caught. I’d like to see it again myself.
“These things happen. I’m not going to criticise the referee. If he got it wrong, I’m sure he’ll hold his hands up. But I’m more disappointed with the yellow card because we’ll lose the player through suspension.
“Paul doesn’t go down easily. He’s not that type. He gets kicked but gets up and gets on with it and we encourage the players to do so.”
And in a veiled reference to Shiels’ earlier outburst, Fenlon said: “Maybe I need to moan a bit more and get us a few, but you just have to take it.”
After seeing his side crash to Inverness Caley and then Motherwell in their previous two matches, Fenlon was delighted to see his side fight back for a point which took them back into fourth place in the SPL
He believed, however, that they were deserving of all three points having overcome a slow start in which they fell behind to a Paul Heffernan goal before Eoin Doyle made it three in three with an equaliser before half-time.
He said: “I felt we deserved to win. I thought we shaded the game in relation to possession. We started a little bit sluggish, maybe a hangover from the previous week. I think when you are beaten well you hold your hands up and move on but to play as well as we had for long spells and to lose it at the end can affect players.
“They showed great character to bounce back from that and after the first 15 to 20 minutes we got to grips with it.”
And Fenlon revealed there will be no holiday for his players with the squad reporting for training today and again
tomorrow to prepare for the visit of Ross County on Boxing Day.