ST JOHNSTONE striker Steven MacLean saw the funny side of Neil Lennon’s claim that he has a “tendency to go down easily” following Saturday’s late penalty scare for Celtic.
The Perth side thought they should have completed a dramatic comeback against the champions when MacLean hit the deck following a challenge by Anthony Stokes late in the 2-1 Scottish Premiership defeat at Parkhead.
But their spot-kick appeals were turned away by referee Alan Muir, leaving Lennon to make his outspoken comments after the match as he suggested Saints’ claim was suspect.
McDiarmid Park boss Tommy Wright later defended his player against Lennon’s suggestion but MacLean insists he simply laughed off Lennon’s words. He said: “I just had a little chuckle when I saw what he said. I’ve had a few calls about it from mates winding me up, but I just laughed them off. Neil was probably just at the wind-up. It’s all just a bit of banter There was definitely a little tug on me and a clip on my heels. Whether that shows up on the telly, I’m not too sure.
“Do I go down easily? No! Everyone knows I’m not one for diving. And I’m sure the referees know that as well. If the referee thought I had dived on Saturday, I’m sure he would have booked me.
“They have clamped down down on diving this season but the ref told me he thought that there was a coming together but not enough for a penalty or that I had dived. That’s fair enough. I’ve watched it again and it doesn’t look like a penalty. But at the time I definitely got clipped.”
Lennon has since apologised to Wright for speaking about a member of the Saints squad in public but stood by his claim that Muir made the right call when he waved away the penalty claim.
“Fair enough to Neil Lennon for apologising to the gaffer but I’m not really bothered and I’m sure the gaffer isn’t either,” added former Sheffield Wednesday and Aberdeen striker MacLean.
The Perth side were unlucky not to snatch a late draw after Stevie May’s shot hit a post before Dave MacKay’s effort from the rebound was saved by Celtic stopper Fraser Forster. It represented a marked change in approach following a meek first-half display and MacLean insists St Johnstone must keep their standards high as they take on Championship side Hamilton at New Douglas Park in the Scottish League Cup third round tonight.
He said: “If we perform like we did in the later part of the game at Celtic Park, we should qualify. It will be a different test for us but we are professionals. We are the Premiership team and it’s down to us to go there and stamp our authority on the match.”
Hamilton Accies player-manager Alex Neil is looking forward to the tie as there is no pressure on his men to win and he will also be meeting up with a lot of familiar faces.
Neil said: “We have been doing really well this season and we are at home but St Johnstone are favourites. Our priority is the league and whilst a cup run would be great I am not going to put pressure on us by saying we are going to do this or do that against a Premiership side.”
“We went to Kilmarnock in the last round with the approach of going out and doing our best and won through. Hopefully that approach will see us do the same again.”
The New Douglas Park side will have to stop their former loan player May from scoring tonight, although May is not the only front man that Neil knows well, as he explained: “I played against Rory Fallon and Steven McLean when I was down in England and of course Nigel Hasselbaink is a former team-mate from here.
“In fact I have played against or with every member of their team. Having other former Hamilton men in Gary McDonald and Brian Easton in their squad adds a wee bit to this game. It is a game we can enjoy and see where it takes us.”
The Accies will make a late check on Saturday’s goal hero in their 1-0 win over Cowdenbeath, Ziggy Gordon, who is still suffering from a head knock. A knee injury keeps Jonathan Routledge out, but recent signing Jesus Garcia Tena is available after illness.