Pat FENLON fears Hibs striker Garry O’Connor has become a marked man after successfully fighting a charge of diving.
The Easter Road club refused to accept the “offer” of a two-match ban from the SFA’s compliance officer who accused the striker of “simulation” in winning a penalty as Hibs defeated St Johnstone 3-2 in September.
And referee Steve Conroy’s decision was upheld by a Fast Track Tribunal which “determined that the player was fouled and no simulation occurred”.
But now Hibs feel O’Connor is still paying the price for that incident with his last three bookings having all been for allegedly diving, the latest of which, in the last minute of Saturday’s dramatic 3-2 win over relegation rivals Dunfermline, will now see the player suspended for the Edinburgh club’s trip to Ibrox at the end of the month.
O’Connor went down under the challenge of Pars stopper John Potter resulting in referee Alan Muir showing him the yellow card. While the Hibs star could perhaps be accused of being a touch over-dramatic in the way in which he hit the turf, television pictures suggested there had, after all, been contact and O’Connor should have been awarded a penalty.
Today Fenlon claimed the system of “retrospective” punishment introduced by the SFA this season was too one-sided and that O’Connor should now have the opportunity to test Muir’s decision by way of video evidence.
The incident infuriated both Fenlon and O’Connor, who was said to be raging by his team-mates. The Hibs boss, who was spoken to by Muir for his reaction to the incident said: “It’s very frustrating, I thought it was a definite penalty.
“They made a mistake a while ago and he is paying the price for that. He has had two or three bookings for supposedly diving and two of them definitely were not dives.”
Asked if he felt O’Connor now had an unfair reputation for diving despite being found not guilty in the first place, Fenlon said: “I think that’s done the rounds, people in the game are tying to point the finger at him.”
And Fenlon admitted his frustration was heightened by the fact Hibs had been hit by a “double whammy” as he called for dodgy “diving” calls to come under the same scrutiny as accusations of simulation.
Making it clear he had no gripes with moves aimed at preventing referees being conned, Fenlon said: “We should have had a penalty but now we have a player suspended.
“However, I think you have to be honest with the players, if they are diving, deal with it. But if they are not and are booked then you should be able to look at it again and reverse it.
“If it is okay to pull someone in and say you have a two-game ban because you dived why is it not all right to wipe out the yellow card when he should have had a penalty. On that I think the system is unfair.”