Sending-off was worth it says Hibs’ Neil Lennon

Neil Lennon celebrates Jamie Maclaren's equaliser in stoppage time before being sent off at Easter Road yesterday. Picture: PA.
Neil Lennon celebrates Jamie Maclaren's equaliser in stoppage time before being sent off at Easter Road yesterday. Picture: PA.
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Neil Lennon has described being sent off for over-celebrating Hibernian’s late equaliser in yesterday’s 5-5 draw with Rangers as “worth it” because he doesn’t expect to be hit by a ban.

The Hibs manager ran on to the pitch with his arms outstretched in reaction to Jamie Maclaren’s goal deep into 
time added and goaded the visiting 
supporters.

Lennon was given a five-match ban, with two of them suspended, in March after criticising referee Kevin Clancy following a 2-2 draw with Kilmarnock. But Lennon believes the SFA should take into account the mitigating factor of Rangers supporters’ sectarian abuse towards him yesterday.

“Well they make it personal, don’t they?” he said afterwards. “You all hear it. They are singing sectarian songs at me. It’s just a little bit of ‘have some of that’. It was worth it! Trust me.”

He accepts emotion got the better of him after Maclaren sealed his hat-trick in injury time of the game of this or, indeed, any recent season. Hibs, needing to win 6-0 to leapfrog their opponents in the league, raced into a 3-0 lead within the opening 22 minutes. Rangers were stung into action and had levelled the score by half-time and went 5-3 ahead midway through the second half. The on-loan Maclaren scored twice before the end to make it 5-5, during which time Rangers midfielder Jason Holt was also sent off.

Lennon, who raced onto the field with arms outstretched to mark Maclaren’s equaliser, was ordered to leave the dugout area – he was already on his way by the time fourth

official Bobby Madden moved to usher him down the tunnel.

It now seems likely he will have to sit out some games in the stand at the start of next season. But Lennon, who also confirmed he was no longer considering his position as Hibs manager, was adamant this should not be the case.

“Bobby was fine about it,” he said. “I should not get a ban for that. I was nowhere near them [the Rangers fans]. I was just letting them know how pleased I was to get the equaliser.”

Asked if he felt the SFA should show leniency in view of what was being sung at him, he added: “I would like to think so – it [running on to the pitch] was harmless was it not? I think the sending-off is enough and I don’t think I should get further punishment for that.

“I was nowhere near them, I was about 50 yards away when I stopped.

Maybe just as well! It was worth it, I enjoyed the moment.”

Lennon admitted he had “spat the dummy out” on Wednesday with his post-match rant following the 2-1 defeat by Hearts. He suggested he might not be around next season and then failed to turn up for training and a pre-match press conference on Friday. Hibs will now only qualify for Europe if Celtic beat Motherwell in Saturday’s Scottish Cup final.

“There has been speculation, but I caused the speculation,” said Lennon. “I put the board under unnecessary scrutiny. There is no issue with the board.”

I had a set target in mind, I wanted to break into that bracket of Aberdeen and Rangers and we have come up short. I have to look at myself and say: ‘Did you do enough?’ I did all right. Fourth is acceptable for some people, not for me. Today is academic. The game was enjoyable. It epitomised the football and the games that we have seen this season from the team.”

He was asked to put an end to the speculation, which he did happily: “I have had a think about it [my future] and I am no longer considering it.”