Rangers manager Walter Smith has urged Kyle Lafferty to curb a temper that could see him sabotage a Rangers career which had looked to be on an upward curve.
The Northern Ireland internationalist has a tendency to draw attention to himself and although this was for the right reasons in April, when he scored the title-winning goal against Hibernian at Easter Road, yesterday he played a more ignominious role in the same setting.
Lafferty was red-carded just three minutes before half-time along with Hibs midfielder Kevin McBride, and although his side won the match 3-0 after a second-half hat-trick from Kenny Miller, the striker was still admonished by Smith after the match.
In the run-up to half-time Lafferty tangled with Liam Miller for the ball and then reacted badly after McBride kicked the ball at him. Referee Iain Brines red carded both Lafferty and McBride, something which left Hibs manager John Hughes feeling "bemused". Hughes felt neither deserved a red card and claimed that Brines had changed his reasons for McBride's dismissal.
When first he asked him to explain the decision, Hughes said Brines had told him it was for "running into (Lafferty] and barging him" after the ball had struck the Rangers player. After the match the referee told Hughes it had been for thumping the ball at Lafferty in the first place. "That's disappointing," said Hughes. "Truthfully, I don't think Lafferty's was a sending-off (either]," added the Hibs manager. "I think the referee dived in there. And I certainly don't think McBride's was a sending-off."
But Hughes accepted that the players did not help the referee, and Smith agreed. The Ibrox manager warned Lafferty about his future conduct, with the player having been involved in a series of high-profile controversies since joining Rangers from Burnley in 2008. He was retrospectively punished for pretending Charlie Mulgrew had head-butted him last year, something which resulted in a red card for the then Aberdeen player.
"I did not think there was that much in the incident," noted Smith. "I think he was sent-off for his reaction after the ball was kicked against him. I suppose in a way it was natural. But you can't blame the referee for that either.
"Kyle has had a couple of things happen to him now. He is going to have to adjust and discipline himself a bit better than he has maybe done in the past.
"It was his reaction after the ball was kicked at him - that was why he was sent off," explained Smith. "I can't blame the referee for that. There was an over-reaction on his (Lafferty's] part. And that's what he has to watch more than anything else."
There was more controversy earlier in the game when Rangers goalkeeper Allan McGregor fell to the turf after an apparent clash with Derek Riordan, the Hibs striker. Replays later showed there had been no contact, although Smith felt the goalkeeper had been on the end of a poor challenge from Riordan just before the players squared up. "I just asked him how his knee was?" said Smith, when asked if he had spoken to McGregor afterwards. "It was a good game, it was competitive," he added. "Do you want us to run around with slippers on?"
Hughes intimated that the television pictures of the McGregor incident spoke for themselves.
In the other SPL matches played yesterday, Celtic enjoyed a comfortable 4-0 win over St Mirren at Parkhead. First-half goals from Joe Ledley and Shaun Maloney were added to after the break by youngster James Forrest, who outlined his potential throughout, and Ki Sung Yueng.
Ki completed the rout with an outstanding strike from 25 yards nine minutes from time.
Inverness picked up their first win since returning to the top flight with a stunning 4-0 rout of Dundee United at Tannadice. Kevin McCann, Adam Rooney with a double, and Russell Duncan were on the mark.
At Rugby Park, a Nick Blackman goal earned visitors Motherwell a 1-0 win over Kilmarnock.