Hibs striker Garry O’Connor hits back at diving claim

Garry O'Connor was given a yellow card for diving in the box
Garry O'Connor was given a yellow card for diving in the box
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Hibs striker Garry O’Connor has insisted he is no diver after being booked for the second match in succession for “simulation”.

And Easter Road boss Pat Fenlon believes his star is perhaps suffering from the row which erupted following the controversial penalty O’Connor won against St Johnstone three months ago.

The SFA’s newly-appointed compliance officer Vincent Lunny “offered” O’Connor a two-match ban after that incident but Hibs mounted a robust defence of their player who was later declared innocent by an independent review panel.

However, O’Connor was booked by referee Steve McLean in last night’s 1-1 draw with Inverness Caledonian Thistle after going down in the opposition penalty area, and in his previous game, against Aberdeen at Pittodrie, he was also yellow-carded having hit the deck following a challenge in the middle of the park. But Fenlon revealed O’Connor, who had opened the scoring against Caley with a stunning free-kick to claim his 11th goal of the season, had protested his innocence.

He said: “Garry is adamant he did not dive, he is adamant he was kicked and then kicked on the head when he fell. It was hard to tell from where I was – I will have to look at it and see – but Garry is adamant that he did not dive.”

Asked if the thought O’Connor was gaining a reputation for going down too easily, Fenlon said: “I think that happens, you see players getting booked for diving but sometimes when they get fouled they do not get them.”

Meanwhile, Fenlon revealed he believes O’Connor’s fellow striker Leigh Griffiths will be fit for Monday’s derby with Hearts at Easter Road despite the on-loan Wolves star limping out of last night’s action.

Griffiths was replaced after 63 minutes of the match, which ended 1-1 to give Fenlon his first point as Hibs manager, by Martin Scott. Fenlon said: “Leigh took a kick on the calf. We’ll assess him today but hopefully it is only a kick and he should be okay.”

Defender Paul Hanlon should also be available for the visit of Hearts, the Scotland Under-21 skipper a late call-off last night because of illness, shattering his record of being the only player to have played in every minute of every Hibs match this season.

Fenlon said: “Paul had been in bed all day and there was no point bringing him in, we didn’t want to give whatever he had to everyone else. We were taking no chances.”