A seething Neil Lennon hit back at Morton manager Jim Duffy during an angry press conference rant yesterday, exacerbating a feud that seems to be growing in rancour.
The pair had to be pulled apart as the Championship match between their sides descended into a mass brawl on Wednesday night and there are no signs of peace breaking out any time soon, with Lennon claiming this fracas was “20 times worse” than the coming together between himself and Ally McCoist at the end of an Old Firm game in 2011 which caused such a national furore at that time.
The latest incident had been sparked by Kudus Oyenuga’s reckless injury-time challenge on home defender Jordon Forster, and fuel was added to the fire when the visiting player then slumped to the turf theatrically after he was confronted by Hibernian captain Darren McGregor.
It led to both players being shown the red card, for the initial challenge and the alleged headbutt, and their managers were also sent to the stand following the touchline melee.
The dust still has not settled, with Lennon furious about the coverage and the comments made by his managerial counterpart, as well as what he considers a lack of interest in his player’s welfare and condemnation of Oyenuga’s play-acting from the Greenock club.
Speaking on Wednesday night about how the fracas had kicked off, Lennon, who later added it had been noisy and he had not heard what was being said in the heat of the battle, had stated: “The guy tried to break Jordon’s leg and then he feigns a headbutt from Darren. The next thing I have got is the Morton manager asking for a square go, which is fair enough, I am not going to back down.”
Duffy responded on Thursday by issuing a statement categorically denying he had asked for a ‘square go’, saying “yes, I acted immaturely – but I’m not 12 years old”.
The statement, along with Duffy’s post-match comments, which were flippant and intended to play matters down, have infuriated Lennon, who made it clear he had been interpreting Duffy’s aggressive body language when he talked of being challenged to fight, maintaining that his angry advance into his technical area had served as a clear statement of intent.
“I am not having me dragged into it as if I am the protagonist all the time by people like you,” he bellowed at journalists who had assembled for yesterday’s press conference to preview today’s trip to face Dunfermline at East End Park. “I did not say he offered me a square go. It was a euphemism. You were all there. It was metaphorical. What was he doing then? Because after Oyenuga, or whatever his name is, halves my player and feigns a headbutt, by the time I’ve looked up he’s in my face – not protecting his players, coming for me! And his assistant manager [Craig McPherson], who I want cited as well.
“If I’m up [in front of an SFA disciplinary committee] and the Morton manager is up then I want the Morton assistant manager up as well because he was the one trying to swing punches.
“I stood on the touchline and I told the player he was a disgrace and [gestured to the referee] to get him off. That does not warrant a manager running at me wanting a fight, or his assistant or his kitman or his first-team coach.
“It was 20 times worse than me and Ally. That was a verbal spat. When people get involved and when they start jumping in between people they make it look worse than it is. But that was bad on Wednesday. The venom, the intent, the aggression was bad.”