After being left angered and frustrated by controversial refereeing decisions in consecutive matches, Hearts would be forgiven for leading calls for the introduction of VAR in the Scottish game.
However, skipper Christophe Berra, whose side are now without a win in seven games, said the “pathetic” call he believes cost them two points on Wednesday was so conclusively not a penalty that there should be no need for the officials to require outside help.
Manager Craig Levein’s anger at referee Bobby Madden during last Sunday’s defeat to ten-man Rangers turned to disbelief after the 2-2 draw in Perth as Andrew Dallas, fresh from mistakenly awarding Celtic a spot-kick in the Betfred Cup final against Aberdeen, stunned virtually everyone inside McDiarmid Park by penalising Peter Haring for a foul on Liam Gordon.
While St Johnstone manager Tommy Wright felt Hearts were “second best all night”, they had nevertheless built a 2-1 lead which was wiped out by the controversial penalty – slotted home by Matt Kennedy.
Berra said: “I’ve seen the video and I need to watch what I say. But honestly, the ball is going away from goal. You just fall down and it’s a penalty?
“The ref was 30 yards away. Did he give it, or the linesman? It’s the same things. I know it’s the toughest job but give yourself a chance.
“I don’t know. It’s pathetic. I spoke to the referee and he said ‘It’s clear as day’. I’m sure our media guys will put the video up and we will see. He just falls down and the ball is going away from goal.
“Peter said he hardly touched him. He might have had his shirt a little bit, but when you see it, the guy falls one way and the ball goes out the box for Sean Clare to control. I don’t understand.
While Levein was forced to defend his cutting criticism of Madden and his assistant referee in the wake of Alfredo Morelos’ offside winner for Rangers, a series of mistakes have opened wider debate over the standard of officialdom in Scotland and what can be done to improve it.
“There are pros and cons for VAR but I don’t think these are hard decisions,” added Berra. “They aren’t contentious decisions. I am the first to say that it’s a hard job – the hardest on the pitch. But we don’t want to be talking about this.
“We could have been coming away with a 2-1 win at a tough place to go to,” he added. “It’s a hard place to play. St Johnstone created chances and put us under pressure. Rightly so, they are a team on form and they make you defend.
“But we were grinding it out and could have come away with a good win.”