Hibs players attack Neil Lennon’s claims

Paul Hanlon, left, and Ryan McGivern combine to squeeze out Celtic's Anthony Stokes. Picture: SNS Group
Paul Hanlon, left, and Ryan McGivern combine to squeeze out Celtic's Anthony Stokes. Picture: SNS Group
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Furious Hibs players have rounded on Neil Lennon after the Celtic manager accused them of “late, high, reckless and rugby-esque” challenges as the sides battled out a 1-1 draw, 
telling him to “man up.”

Rowan Vine and Michael Nelson both took to Twitter to attack Lennon in the wake of his outburst while Owain Tudur Jones claimed the miffed Hoops boss was simply looking for excuses as to why his players hadn’t managed to pick up all three points.

Although he insisted he wasn’t singling out any Hibs star, claiming the roughhouse tactics as he saw it were across the board, Lennon did, however, highlight a Vine challenge on Celtic debutant Darren Fisher, branding it “rugby-esque,” a description which enraged Vine, who blasted the Celtic boss on the social message network.

Vine later apologised for threatening to get his “mate” Alan Shearer to kick Lennon on the head again, a reference to an incident between the former England striker in a Leicester-Newcastle United game 15 years ago, but insisted he’d hardly touched Fisher and that there had been no reckless tackles in the game.

Central defender Nelson posted a picture of himself sporting a black eye, the result of a clash with Celtic substitute Amido Balde, adding: “Certain people crying and moaning about tackles in the paper today. Don’t hear me complaining about this. #manup.”

Lennon also made a veiled threat as to the next meeting between the sides in a couple of months time, noting: “We’ll play Hibs again, though.” But his comments failed to rile Hibs boss Pat Fenlon who, while insisting he didn’t agree at all with Lennon, said: “Good. It means my message is getting across to my men.

“We want to compete, get in people’s faces. Celtic knew they were in a game. If you stand off them, they’ll tear you apart – we weren’t going to do that.”

And Tudur Jones revealed that’s exactly what he and his team-mates set out to do while insisting Fenlon’s players had, with one or two exceptions which brought bookings from referee Calum Murray, competed within the laws of the game.

And, he claimed, Lennon would be delighted to see his own players adopt such an attitude when they come up against the likes of Barcelona in the Champions League.

The Welsh internationalist said: “If it was the other way round and Celtic were playing against Barcelona and had got in their faces and got tackles in Lennon would be a very happy man.

“It’s a little bit of kidology really. It shows we were well up for the game but I don’t think there were any ridiculous tackles, no big two-footed lunging tackles. There was none of that, it was all commitment.

“I think the worst one was when Ryan [McGivern] had one towards the end. The ball was in the air and it probably made it look worse. He has genuinely gone to clear the ball but sometimes the opposing player is a little bit quicker than you.”

Asked if he felt it was sour grapes on Lennon’s part, Hibs having led through Paul Heffernan’s early strike which was allowed to stand although he was clearly at least a yard offside until James Forrest equalised 14 minutes from time, Tudur Jones replied: “No. I think it was just looking for reasons why they had not collected the three points.”