Hibs boss Lee Johnson slams 'disrespectful' Steven Naismith but could be in hot water for hitting out at Hearts caretaker
It was a match that the Easter Road side had to win to finish above their city rivals but despite Hearts going down to 10 men in the 29th minute, when Alex Cochrane was red carded, the visitors could only force a 1-1 draw as the Tynecastle side wrapped up the campaign in fourth place, with Hibs two points behind in fifth. The Leith will now have to wait to see if Celtic can complete the treble by beating Inverness Caledonian Thistle in the semi-finals and give them entry to Europa Conference League through the side door.
But there was fury at full-time as the animosity that had been brewing all game ultimately boiled over. There were issues throughout the match when a hot water bottle was lobbed at Johnson after he encroached on the opposition dug-out to retrieve the ball which was being held by Hearts coach Gordon Forrest. Lewis Miller was doused in food and drink thrown from the stands, and substitute Marijan Cabraja was punched by a fan in the Wheatfield Stand as he tried to retrieve the ball.
The Hibs manager was shown a yellow for squaring up to Forrest but after the later melee, he was also shown a red, along with Hearts goalkeeping coach Paul Gallacher, and Ross Stewart and Rocky Bushiri, who were two of the main protagonists in the bust-up.
“It was a classic 'my dad's bigger than your dad' melee-type thing,” explained Johnson, who has already had to serve a touchline ban this season and could face further punishment after he appeared to dig Naismith in the side as they exchanged post-match handshakes.
"It was a case of two managers who don't like each other very much and that's what started it. But, I'll keep the hot water bottle that was thrown at me for winter! There was a bit of needle but it happens; technical areas are a passionate place. It's not a problem, we move on. I've been a manager that long, you see it all in the technical area. It means nothing. I've no idea if any players were carded afterwards. I just wanted to clap our fans.”
But there was no denying his disdain for interim Hearts gaffer, who replaced Johnson’s friend and former team-mate Robbie Neilson in the Tynecastle hotseat last month. "He's had seven games as a manager and I just think the way he speaks is disrespectful to the previous manager,” continued Johnson. "We'll see after 250 games if he's lucky enough to still be in charge of any club, and if he still has that attitude."
Johnson was also irked by the home side’s tactics. "It was a frustrating game in terms of the ebb and the flow because there was no flow,” added the Hibs boss. “The time-wasting was quite embarrassing at times; that makes it difficult to support free-flowing football. We didn't do enough in terms of finding that moment to allow runs of attacks, and then we allowed them to waste time, the ballboys were slow, their keeper was walking. Fair play to them, that's their game management. Even the fan [wrestling with Cabraja], that happens doesn't it?”