As the enforcer in front of Hibernian’s back four, Marvin Bartley prefers the physical side of the beautiful game, but even he believed his counterparts on Saturday went over the line with the robust nature of their challenges, firmly backing up the words of his manager Neil Lennon.
The Hibs boss likened Hamilton to “cavemen” in the aftermath of the 1-1 draw, infuriated with referee Don Robertson for failing to punish what he described as “disgraceful” tackles from the home side.
“Yeah, and he wasn’t the one receiving them, so imagine how the players felt,” said Bartley in response to his manager’s earlier comments. “Listen, I’m a physical player myself. I try to play within the laws of the game, but some of the tackles were a bit shocking to say the least.
“It’s less Hamilton and more the referee because if you keep pushing at something and you’re allowed to get away with it, then you’re going to keep doing it and keep doing it, getting worse and worse.”
Asked to recall the last time he’d encountered such harsh treatment from an opponent, Bartley quipped “when I played rugby at school” and admitted Hibs might have to change their tactics themselves if such opposition continues.
“You don’t want to go to those levels and do that to professional footballers,” added the 31-year-old. “There’s going to come a point where it’ll get that way. I mean, I’ve been sent off a couple of times for coughing on players and have since been rescinded, but if that’s the way they’re going to play I’m more than up for it.”
The midfielder also claimed to be fouled in the build-up to Hamilton’s equaliser. It came after Simon Murray had given Hibs a first-half lead, running on to Brandon Barker’s through pass at the end of a box-to-box run from the playmaker and slamming the ball into the roof of the net. Hibs didn’t take their chances to extend their lead and were made to pay when David Templeton crossed for Antonio Rojano to level the scores.
“I don’t think we’re over-physical, we just go out to play the game,” said Dougie Imrie, who was accused of fouling Bartley as he dispossessed his opponent.
“Managers or players are allowed their opinion, but I just think that first half we weren’t at the races, and in the second half we were much better and were tighter to our men, and that was the difference.”
The result enabled Hamilton to stretch their unbeaten run to five games. For Hibs, meanwhile, failing to secure three points from a game which they so richly merited to win, holding Accies to just one attempt on goal the entire 90 minutes, meant they ultimately fell four points behind Aberdeen in the hunt for second place.
One-all draws away from home, having dominated long spells of the match, is becoming a bit of a trend for the Easter Road side, but instead of dwelling on the negatives, other than the man in the middle, Bartley was quick to put it all into perspective.
He concluded: “It’s more points gone but you need to remember what league we were in last season. This was a similar group to the one playing in the Championship last season.
“Yes we’ve stepped up, yes we’ve done well, but there’s no points dropped for us, especially in the first half of the season. It’s a learning curve. We’re coming up against better players, more physical teams, and maybe worse refs.”