Hibs boss refuses to get stuck in battle over Laszlo's accusation

HIBS boss John Hughes today refused to become embroiled in a war of words with his opposite number at Hearts after Csaba Laszlo accused him of fanning the flames in a fiery Edinburgh derby.

Laszlo claimed Hughes had tried to "provoke" Jambos star Ruben Palazuelos as he chased after Hibs kid Darren McCormack after the pair had been sent off by referee Charlie Richmond having exchanged head butts early in the second-half.

As McCormack, who won't be disciplined by Hughes for his part in the unsavoury incident, disappeared up the Easter Road tunnel Palazuelos appeared intent on continuing the spat with his opponent and had to be held back by Laszlo and members of his backroom staff.

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However, Laszlo was angered as Hughes stepped into his technical area, shoving the Hibs boss away and later said: "I wasn't angry with the Hibs player, I was angry with Ruben.

"But you must not jump out and provoke my player. Managers must be able to calm down players, not make them more aggressive."

Today, though, Hughes insisted he had also been acting as a peacemaker and claimed the actions of Palazuelos, the eighth Hearts player to be sent off this season, spoke for themselves.

He said: "I think it was there for everyone to see, other than that I have nothing to say."

But Hughes was adamant Palazuelos had been the aggressor, pushing his head into the face of 20-year-old McCormack, who retaliated by butting the Hearts midfielder.

The Easter Road manager said: "If Darren had not retaliated it would have been a red card for the Hearts player as the referee had seen the incident.

"Darren is a young boy and I can understand it but he will learn from what happened. I'll be getting the arm around him and telling him the rights and wrongs.

"I certainly don't condone what he did, he let himself, his team and his team-mates down. But there's also something in Darren which says 'I will stand up for myself'.

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"He has the right character, it just needs channelled in the right direction.

"We've all been there as boys, head-strong and feeling you can take on the world.

"I was the same, I had to learn, I listened, took it on board and channelled it the right way and that's what we have to do with Darren.

"There's no finger of blame being pointed at him, it was an instant and natural reaction. I'll sit down and have a chat but there's that 'warrior' in him that you don't want to dampen.

"The thing is that if the referee had missed the initial incident and seen Darren retaliate we alone would have been down to ten men."

Although yesterday's draw saw Hibs ease another point away from Dundee United in the fight for third place in the SPL table, Hughes was disappointed a hamstring injury forced playmaker Merouane Zemmama to quit the match, feeling that with the extra space afforded by each side being a man short could possibly have let the Moroccan become the matchwinner.

He said: "Zouma had been nursing a hamstring for a couple of days and it was only on Friday when I sat down with him he said he'd give it a go. When we were both down to 10 men I thought it would be ideal for him, the space would be there but unfortunately he had to come off."