IT WAS the goal which separated the sides. It separated them in terms of the scoreline and it definitely separated then when it came to their opinion of the Ryan O’Leary challenge on Paul Cairney which gave Hibs the decisive penalty, converted by Leigh Griffiths.
Scorers: Hibernian - Griffiths (14, 45 pen); Kilmarnock - Racchi (32)
Bookings: Hibernian - Doyle; Kilmarnock - Letheren, Pascali
“He ran straight into my player looking for a penalty,” said Kenny Shiels, who was infuriated by the perceived injustice and called for retrospective punishment for Cairney. “If, when the video evidence comes up, I think that player should be suspended. I don’t like diving. My player dived once, James Dayton, and he got a free-kick which wasn’t fair.”
While desperate to see the opposition subjected to trial by television, he admitted he hadn’t actually seen any reruns of the controversial incident. “There certainly wasn’t any contact. Even with my poor eyesight from 50 yards away I could see that. I don’t even need to see any replays, I know it wasn’t a penalty.”
Having made use of technology, his Hibs counterpart would beg to differ. “I have just watched it on the DVD and to be honest, it was a penalty,” said Pat Fenlon. “I thought at the time it was a little bit harsh but definitely, after watching it, it is a penalty. I thought if it had been against us I would have been disappointed by after watching it again, it was definitely a penalty.”
And so it went on, with Shiels insisting there wasn’t even any contact and his player, O’Leary, who was the man judged to have toppled Cairney, admitting that there was but insisting that the midfielder played for the spot kick.
“Before I went down he went down. Maybe he has used his brain and saw I was getting tight to him and was looking for it but he threw himself into me,” said O’Leary.
What both camps agreed on was that the penalty could hardly have come at a better time.
Hibs had started with the same side who had gained an impressive draw at Celtic Park. A bit scrappy in their early play, they still managed to cause Kilmarnock problems as Griffiths busied himself up front, dragging players about as he moved from one side of the pitch to the other. A player who has started the season on scintillating form, he looks as determined as anyone in green and white to ensure there would be no repeat of last season’s miseries.
Six games into that campaign, it was already clear that the Easter Road outfit was in trouble. One win, four defeats and one draw left them with four points. Already this season they are into double figures, with their three wins from six outings propelling them to second place.
There is a greater resilience to the Hibs performances and even when they fail to reach their best form, as was the case yesterday, they proved they have the heart to battle.
They took the lead in the 12th minute. It stemmed from a David Wotherspoon cutback for Griffiths which was sent goalwards. The fact that Killie goalkeeper Kyle Letheren managed to parry it away for a corner merely delayed matters and ensured that when the goal did come, it was more embarrassing for himself. Griffiths whipped in the resultant corner which Lethern failed to collect, the ball spinning out of his hands and into his own net.
Kilmarnock could have got themselves back into it three minutes later when Borja Perez wasted a opportunity when he ran through one on one with Ben Williams, the Hibs keeper making the block. From Dayton’s corner he again saved the capital side, this time stopping Michael Nelson’s header. The visitors did square things in the 32nd minute, when Danny Racchi ran through to slot into an empty net as Williams and centre-back Paul Hanlon got into a fankle.
But then came the crucial penalty. Right on half time, Cairney, who was a key contributor throughout the game, burst into the box and with O’Leary committed, he ended up on the deck. Griffiths was the man charged with converting from the spot and he did so convincingly, slamming it low to Letheren’s left.
“I think quite a few referees turned up today and they certainly had an influence on the game,” stated Shiels, obviously aggrieved. “The referee had a good game but there was an ulterior influence in there. Going in at half-time, I said Steve [McLean, the referee] you have to show us more respect. I wasn’t happy about the penalty decision and he called for me to go in and I had a good chat with him and he treated me like a human being which in his industry they don’t normally do, so I thought that was good.”
Hibs: Williams, Clancy, McPake, Hanlon, Maybury, Wotherspoon (Stevenson 60), Claros, Deegan, Cairney, Doyle (Sproule (90+2), Griffiths (Caldwell 78). Subs not used: Antell, Handling, Stanton, McGivern.
Kilmarnock: Letheren, Fowler, O’Leary, Nelson, Racchi (C Johnston 70), Kelly, Dayton, Sheridan, Perez (Gros 63), McKeown, Pascali. Subs not used: Jaakola, Harkins, L Johnson, McKenzie, Pursehouse.