Neil Lennon was raging with Craig Levein after the Hearts manager claimed his team’s 1-0 victory in the Scottish Cup had helped “restore the natural order”.
The Hibernian boss called the remarks a “crock of cr*p” and accused his rival of showing a lack of humility after the result had ended the Leith team’s recent dominance in the Edinburgh derby.
Hibs had gone nine games undefeated until Don Cowie’s 87th-minute goal sent Hearts into the fifth round of the competition, an outcome which Levein admitted was “massive” for the Tynecastle club.
“The longer the run goes on, the more difficult it becomes and the more steely Hibs become when they’re protecting it,” he said.
“We needed to break it and break it as quickly as possible. I don’t like this idea that Hibs were gaining any sort of momentum and I want to try to restore the natural order of things.”
But Lennon, visibly angry at the remarks, said: “What does that mean restoring the natural order? I don’t understand that. What is the natural order? Is it Hearts beating Hibs every time?
“It’s just a crock of cr*p. It’s not good. It’s a pretty poor statement to make and I think it’s disrespectful to my club, my players and me.
“I don’t know what he means but they have not won in nine [derbies], this is my first defeat in five and we should also have won the league game here when they got lucky [last month’s ‘ghost goal’ game when Hibs had a legitimate strike disallowed]. There’s a lack of humility. I don’t think I’ve ever made a statement like that. But we’ve got two more games to come so we’ll see about natural order after that.”
Lennon was disappointed to lose what he called a “scrappy slogfest”. “I didn’t think we deserved to win it but neither did we deserve to lose.”
He was asked about the irony of the winner having been confirmed by the referee’s assistant. Harking back to the goal his team never got, he said: “It’s brilliant to see a linesman doing his job properly, absolutely amazing.”
Lennon was asked about Anthony Stokes, not involved yesterday and believed to be on his way out of Hibs after the latest off-the-field indiscretion: “There’s nothing else I can say, apart from the fact I don’t think his absence made a difference. It’s a club issue and will be resolved one way or another in the next week or so.”
Levein, though, insisted his team deserved the win, saying: “We had the lion’s share of possession, the best opportunities and the most chances… and eventually we managed to bundle the ball over the line.”
He couldn’t resist his own quip about the goal that should have been but never was, adding: “I was almost hoping it wasn’t in – that would have been brilliant!”
He praised debutants Steven Naismith and Demetri Mitchell and described Harry Cochrane’s performance as “out of this world”.