Neil Lennon pointed the finger of blame squarely at the referee after his Hibs side failed to take full advantage of their dominance away to Hamilton Accies, passing up the opportunity to overtake Aberdeen and go second in the Ladbrokes Premiership table
Reminiscent of trips to Dundee and St Johnstone earlier in the season, the away side enjoyed over 60 per cent possession and limited the hosts to just one attempt on goal the entire game, yet could only claim a point for their efforts. The reason, in the eyes of the Hibs manager, wasn’t wastefulness or a lapse in concentration at the back. It was the failure of Don Robertson to protect his side from some robust challenges in the second half.
“There was one team trying to play football, and one team trying to kick the crap out of the opposition. We got no protection whatsoever,” fumed Lennon. “We’re going to lose John McGinn one way or the other. Either it’ll be to England or he’ll end up in hospital. The quality of tackling was a disgrace. How they ended up with 11 men on the pitch is beyond me. No protection for him whatsoever, it was caveman stuff.
“The quality of tackling from the opposition was a disgrace. The foul count was 19 to seven, they had five yellow cards.
“If you see our goal again, two of them tried to take (Brandon) Barker out, no attempt to play the ball.
“The referee should have gone back and booked them. The tackle on McGinn at the end was disgraceful. We should have had a penalty with Dylan McGeouch; Danny Redmond took him out as he went to cross the ball and we believe there might have been a foul in the build-up to their goal.
“I’m very frustrated. Not with my team, I thought we were incredible, but with the ref. I thought he was well out of his depth. We’re going back to the 1950s here. I like a tackle, I like hard men, but anyone can kick people. They were taking swipes at us any opportunity they could.”
To call the first half a slow burner would be overstating it a tad. There was nothing in the way of goalmouth action prior to the 29th minute opener. Hibs began to assert their dominance after a passive opening 15 minutes. Brandon Barker, playing in the No.10 role in his side’s narrow 4-4-2 diamond, began to drift and find space around the final third. This, combined with Marvin Bartley’s bouncer act in front of the back four, gave Hibs a grip of the match that they wouldn’t relinquish until deep into the second period.
The opener was a classic counter attack. Barker picked the ball up a few yards outside his own area before turning on the after-burners and racing through the middle of the park. After arriving on the edge of the Accies box, he slipped in Simon Murray who crashed a first-time effort into the roof of the net past Gary Woods.
Martin Boyle had a close-range shot blocked by the foot of Georgios Sarris, while John McGinn saw a stinging effort from 25 yards pushed over by Woods. Other than that, Hibs failed to turn their first half dominance into anything more substantial.
Two great chances were spurned in the space of a minute which would surely have put the game outwith Accies’ reach. Martin Boyle could only shoot into the legs of Woods after finding himself in acres of space inside the penalty area, then, from a John McGinn corner, Paul Hanlon saw a close-range header again saved by the Hamilton goalkeeper.
Hibs would come to rue those missed chances when, almost out of nowhere, the home side equalised. Even Hamilton boss Martin Canning admitted it was a “half-chance at best”. Bartley was caught in possession on the edge of his own penalty area, though the midfielder would claim he was fouled by Dougie Imrie. The ball was moved to David Templeton who clipped in a cross for Antonio Rojano. The striker had contributed very little to the game up until that point, but he managed to loop a terrific header over Ofir Marciano and into the back of the net.
Hibs pushed for a late winner but found the Accies back-line a lot stuffier than they had been earlier in the half.