Hamilton's Dougie Imrie accuses Hearts of '˜sour grapes'

Hearts assistant coach Austin MacPhee and Hamilton's Darian Mackinnon fall to the ground. Picture: SNS.Hearts assistant coach Austin MacPhee and Hamilton's Darian Mackinnon fall to the ground. Picture: SNS.
Hearts assistant coach Austin MacPhee and Hamilton's Darian Mackinnon fall to the ground. Picture: SNS.
Hamilton's Dougie Imrie accused Hearts of 'sour grapes' after the sides '“ often literally '“ fought out a 1-1 draw at Tynecastle on Saturday.

The home side, who had taken the lead early in the second half and held the advantage until the 69th minute, despite being reduced to ten men ten minutes before the interval, were openly critical of an inconsistent refereeing performance that allowed the contest to spiral out of control.

“I thought the ref did well and maybe Hearts have a bit of sour grapes,” said the feisty Hamilton winger, despite admitting that he had not had a good view of any of the key incidents. “Their manager and Austin MacPhee were sent to the stand and they dropped two points. Maybe on another day we could have been in that situation and would be saying something similar.”

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Few were disputing Jamie Brandon’s needless red card. Having naively lunged in on Imrie, the 19-year-old caught Antonio Rojano with a flailing elbow moments later and his second card signalled an end to his involvement.

But if that decision was correct, seeds of frustration had already been sown with many of the run-of-the-mill judgments called into question by Hearts players, management and fans. The vexation soon boiled over, leaving referee Bobby Madden unable to take the sting out of proceedings.

“I know you’re at home and the fans can be after every decision, but come on, some of the decisions were a joke,” said Hearts captain Christophe Berra. “It’s a tough job but, still, you expect standards. I know you have bad days but they weren’t hard decisions. You just want fair decisions.”

On a combative day, some physical challenges were deemed acceptable, while others brought retribution, and that disparity is what infuriated the home side, who were in need of a victory to halt their winless run, which now stretches to six games.

“Some of the decisions were farcical,” added Berra. “You’ve just got to get on with it. I wasted half my energy disputing decisions. There was one on the touchline where the guy has clearly barged me. It’s hard to keep calm.

“Jon Daly said to me that the linesman was on his mic saying ‘it’s a free kick’. But for some reason the ref decided it wasn’t. He said ‘oh, you took a heavy touch’. It doesn’t matter if I took a heavy touch, I’ve been taken out. Anyway, we had to get on with it. We got a point. I’m disappointed we didn’t win but it was tough.”

Brandon’s sending off had actually galvanised the home side and for long spells Hamilton could not bring their numerical advantage to bear. Hearts channelled their frustrations perfectly, with David Milinkovic keen to impress. Just after the break, Jamie Walker gave them the lead, curling home a free-kick after substitute Lewis Moore was fouled by Darian Mackinnon in the 47th minute.

But soon it was the guests who were getting on top, with the performance of former player David Templeton stoking the fury in the stands.

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He was the player who went down under a John Souttar challenge when manager Craig Levein’s exasperation became too much for the under-fire ref, who instead of running right to him, needlessly ran two feet away and tried to reassert his authority by beckoning the Hearts boss towards him. When Levein stood his ground, he was dispatched to the stand without explanation.

His assistant MacPhee soon joined him in one of the most surreal incidents in an already crazy match. The coach picked up a ball that had gone out for a throw and Mackinnon entered the technical area to try to wrestle it back. In the exchange that followed both men ended up in a heap on the ground and a large-scale stramash ensued.

“People got involved but it was needless,” said Imrie. “Hearts are down to ten men and Daz is on a booking so maybe they are trying to get him to react to get a second booking and get him sent off. You can understand they are trying to make it even. But people got involved when they didn’t have to and it blew up out of all proportion.”

When the dust settled and officials and even police officers had managed to restore a modicum of calm, the Hearts assistant boss was cast as the villain and sent off, while Mackinnon escaped without even a word of warning.

It only fuelled Hearts’ belief that there were different rules for different teams and, while they fought back by trying to cling to the lead, with goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin pulling off some quality saves and players throwing their bodies in the way of Hamilton’s attacking threat, the sense of injustice grew when Martin Canning’s men finally found a way through, courtesy of a Xavier Tomas header in the 69th minute.

But, try as they might, Hamilton, who have gone six games without defeat, including victory over Rangers and draws with Aberdeen and Hibernian, could not dig out a winner.