Robbie Neilson today laid the blame for Hearts’ Scottish Cup exit firmly at the feet of referee Willie Collum – then insisted he won’t let the official derail his club’s season.
Collum sent off Morgaro Gomis eight minutes into yesterday’s fourth round tie with Celtic at Tynecastle for a reckless tackle on Scott Brown. He then awarded the visitors a penalty despite no contact taking place when Brad McKay challenged John Guidetti.
Collum, pictured, refused to speak to Neilson at the end of Celtic’s 4-0 win, leaving the Hearts head coach enraged. However, Neilson stressed his players will be fired up by the injustice. He is adamant Collum’s poor display will not damage Hearts’ momentum in the league, where they sit nine points ahead of Rangers at the top of the Championship.
“We were playing against the best team in Scotland, down to ten men and with decisions going against us,” said Neilson. “To keep the spirit and keep working was pleasing. We have to use this as a motivation to keep going now and make sure we don’t let one person’s performance bring us down. We’re better than that.
“As a group, we’ll use it to motivate us for the rest of the season. Somebody has given decisions against us and put us out of the cup. It’s wasn’t for the want of us working hard or doing the right things. I thought my players did everything right yesterday. They gave me everything but it wasn’t to be because somebody made some decisions that changed the game.
“I spoke to Morgaro and he’s disappointed. He said he went in to win the ball and he won the ball. Okay, he went in at pace but to win a tackle in a Scottish Cup tie against Celtic at Tynecastle, you need to do things at pace. You have to go in and be aggressive and be strong.
“One referee last week says [that kind of tackle] is a yellow card [against Rangers], the referee this week is giving red cards. Nobody knows what the rules are. The rules seem to change from referee to referee. It’s difficult for my boys because one week that’s allowed and the next week it’s not.
“It’s difficult for referees, don’t get me wrong, but you want some sort of consistency. If it’s a red card one week then it’s a red card the next week. It doesn’t seem to be that way these days. It’s up to every referee to decide himself.
“After the penalty, and even after the third goal, we still tried to get forward and create chances. The players kept their motivation. However, when you have men sent off and penalties given against you against Celtic, you’re going to struggle.”
• Hearts captain Danny Wilson missed yesterday’s match but he will play for Hearts Under-20s tonight against Hamilton Academical. The match at New Victoria Park in Newtongrange is set to kick-off at 7pm.