An angry Alan Stubbs accused referee Willie Collum of making yet another high-profile blunder after watching Hibs’ four-month unbeaten run come to an end against Rangers.
Goals from Lee Wallace and ex-Easter Road striker Kenny Miller saw the Capital club’s advantage in the race for second place in the table halved to just three points on a day when Hearts were confirmed as Championship winners.
While Hibs were trailing 1-0, Stubbs was adamant Collum had robbed his side of the chance to take something from the game after the whistler failed to blow for a foul when former Hearts left-back Wallace crashed into defender Paul Hanlon, leaving Miller to drill home the clinching goal ten minutes from time.
Stubbs firmly believed his players were enjoying the upper-hand at that stage but after initially indicating he wouldn’t comment on Collum’s decision for fear of getting into trouble with the Hampden authorities, the former Celtic and Everton stopper launched a blistering attack on the referee, who has already been at the centre of major controversy more than once this season.
The Easter Road head coach said: “I’ve been in management a short time, but I played for a long time and I think over the years the decision would have been given 100 per cent of the time. That’s probably the best way to describe it without me getting into trouble – not 90 per cent, not 99 per cent but 100 per cent.”
Stubbs claimed that even Collum would probably feel he’d got it wrong once he’d seen the incident, but admitted that would be of little consolation to his players, those of whom were close to the incident fatally hesitating for a split-second in anticipation of a whistle.
He said: “Ask everyone in the stadium if there was a foul and I think they’d have felt a foul was coming so I am not going to talk about players stopping. You talk about keeping going, but it was a foul. There’s no way you can dress it up, it’s a foul. Paul has been caught after he has cleared the ball. Unless we want to re-write the rules, the laws of the game, it’s a foul. I don’t want to be sitting here trying to justify a decision, there’s only one guy who can justify the decision but unfortunately they are protected, they are not allowed to talk.
“I thought it spoiled the game – not from Rangers’ point of view. I thought we were on top, I thought we had Rangers pinned back and while we were not necessarily creating clear chances the momentum was building. To be suddenly stopped in your tracks like that is obviously a big blow.”
Stubbs insists the end of his side’s 15-game unbeaten run won’t change Hibs’ aims for the rest of the season. He said: “I thought Rangers in terms of possession had the better of the first half without an awful lot of chances for either side being created.
“Second half I thought we were better, our tempo was better then, unfortunately, the guy in the middle gets involved.”