Stevie Mallan should consider a career in the diplomatic corps when he finally hangs up his boots given the way the Hibernian midfielder dealt with the most contentious issues following a result and performances that left both sides feeling deeply frustrated.
The visitors’ disappointment focused on their inability to defeat opponents ultimately reduced to nine men, largely because Christian Doidge, a striker signed for £350,000 in the summer, failed to exploit four one-on-one duels with Aberdeen keeper Joe Lewis.
Mallan offered his team-mate the sort of sympathy unlikely to strike a chord with the 1,000 Hibernian supporters who should have travelled back to the capital having witnessed only a second league win of the season.
More surprisingly, he even understood Derek McInnes’ furious full-time outburst after the Aberdeen manager strode on to the pitch to let referee Don Robertson know how he felt about red cards issued to Curtis Main and Lewis Ferguson before literally pointing the finger at Mallan for his culpability in both dismissals.
“That’s part and parcel of football. Del, as an ex-player, still has that passion and fight,” was Mallan’s response to McInnes’ outburst. “He’s showing that he cares about his team. I can’t hold that against him. He was accusing me of milking it a little bit, telling me to stay on my feet, but he’s trying to defend his own players, isn’t he?
“I’m pretty sure, if it was the other way about, our manager would be doing the exact same. He’s had two players sent off, he’s maybe got a bit of a grievance, didn’t think they were worth red cards, so he’s going to show a bit of emotion after the match. It happens.”
Main walked shortly after Ryan Porteous shot the visitors into lead after 48 minutes, while Ferguson also received a straight red card in the dying seconds, both for what were judged to be overly aggressive challenges on Mallan.
However aggrieved McInnes may feel about those decisions, though, it’s worth reflecting that Sam Cosgrove was lucky to still be on the field to hammer home the headed equaliser with just four minutes to go.
Booked in the first half after getting into an incident that shouldn’t have concerned him, the striker kicked out at substitute Glenn Middleton and was fortunate to escape a second yellow, going on to make it 14 goals in 15 games this season.
Of course, the Aberdeen players were determined to show the fight desperately lacking in the 5-0 thrashing at Ibrox the previous week and the way they salvaged a point proved that, even if their forcefulness was misdirected at times.
The return of Scott McKenna from injury and Andrew Considine following an illness certainly helped, while the pace, awareness and supporting runs of teenager Ethan Ross would have been more productive if team-mates had been on the same wavelength.
Likewise, Hibernian maintained their recent progress by looking fairly solid defensively, even if Porteous was caught under the ball when Cosgrove rose above him to score late on but manager Paul Heckingbottom’s current problems lie at the other end of the field with only seven league goals to their credit so far. Doidge has yet to score one of them and his poor control and misjudgment were the chief reasons why they threw away the chance to register a first Premiership win on the road since the victory at Tynecastle back in April.
But Mallan defended Doidge more effectively than the team did when Niall McGinn’s set piece led to a late leveller. “To be fair, the big man was gutted,” said Mallan. “He knows the situation and knows he could have killed the game off. He’s the kind of boy who beats himself up anyway. It’s up to us to pick him up. If he scores, we’re home and dry. I’m pretty sure he’ll bounce back from it.”