An exasperated Alan Stubbs has asked referee Alan Muir to explain himself after the referee chose not to award Hibs a penalty despite later admitting that he saw David McCracken handle the ball in the box.
The seemingly blatant offence occurred at a pivotal time in a pulsating Premiership play-off semi-final first-leg between Hibs and Falkirk last night.
A late Bob McHugh equaliser saw Falkirk level the tie but Hibs manager Stubbs was furious that his side had been denied a chance to establish a 3-1 lead midway through the second half.
Goalkeeper Conrad Logan’s error allowed McHugh’s shot to squeeze under his body after Hibs had overturned Lee Miller’s opener with second-half strikes from Liam Henderson and defender Darren McGregor’s header from a corner.
But Stubbs felt that the decision not to award Hibs a penalty after McCracken handled the ball after tackling John McGinn was the defining moment of the evening.
He expressed the hope that the moment does not also have a bearing on the overall outcome of the tie, with the second leg to come in Falkirk on Friday night.
“I am a bit at a loss for words,” said Stubbs. “I cannot obviously say too much. It could be massive.
“We got the goal and got ourselves in the lead and unfortunately… it is a huge call. The ref told me he’d seen it,” continued Stubbs. “Why didn’t he give it? That’s why I can’t say too much… If he saw it then I think everyone in the stadium knew it was a penalty.
“He has admitted he saw him touch it. It is one of those decisions. That is why I think the referee should explain it. You just want them to get these big calls right. You ask for consistency but you want them to get it consistently right.”
“I hope it doesn’t all come down to that,” added Stubbs. “There is obviously going to be a lot of talk about it. That was for us to go 3-1 up, I honestly think referees should be in this position to answer for it. I can’t answer for his decision.”
Falkirk manager Peter Houston was not in the mood to hear Hibs’ complaints after he recalled the Easter Road side being awarded a highly dubious penalty by the same referee earlier this season.
McGinn was also involved in that incident when he collided with Blair Alston and Muir surprised everyone by pointing to the spot.
Jason Cummings’ converted the penalty to secure a 1-0 win, the only time the teams have been separated in five meetings this season.
“I’ve not seen it back but I’m a great believer that things balance themselves out over the course of a season,” said Houston. “Back in October, in the only game out of five that has produced a winner between Falkirk and Hibs, they were given a penalty that was never a penalty.
“So if we have got the rub of the green tonight I will take it because we are due it.
“We should have had something from that match that night. But we didn’t and everyone I spoke to afterwards said it wasn’t a penalty kick. If it should have been given for Hibs tonight they just need to deal with it and get on with it.”