Lewis Stevenson has praised the commonsense approach of referee Crawford Allan after picking up only a yellow card for an accidental push on the official.
The Hibs defender laid his hand on the chest of the whistler as he reacted angrily to being penalised for a challenge on St Mirren goalscorer Calum Gallagher and had his heart in his mouth as Allan reached for his pocket.
But to his immense relief Allan didn’t flash the red card many might have anticipated in such circumstances. Stevenson, who had only been sent off once in his previous 277 appearances for Hibs – against the Buddies in Paisley three years ago when he picked up two bookings – said: “It was a bad reaction from me. I still don’t think it was a free-kick but I shouldn’t have reacted the way I did. I went to put my hand on his shoulder but somehow I ended up pushing him. I never meant to and I apologised right away. I think he could tell from my eyes that I didn’t mean to push him and fair play to him he showed commonsense and only booked me.
“I think you could call it a friendly push rather than an aggressive shove.”
The incident happened 16 minutes from time with Hibs pressing hard for a winning goal after Martin Boyle’s diving header cancelled out Gallagher’s early strike. Retaining a full quota of players was obviously important although, unfortunately, victory was not achieved. The resulting draw meant Hibs missed the chance to go second in the Championship while, 24 hours later, Rangers’ comfortable victory over Morton widened the gap between the two teams who are recognised as the biggest rivals for the title.
Stevenson, however, insisted he and his team-mates cannot allow themselves to dwell on what was a disappointing weekend, citing the exertions of Hibs’ stunning League Cup win over Premiership leaders Aberdeen last midweek as a factor in a below-par performance.
The club’s longest-serving player said: “We can’t focus on Rangers, only on ourselves and trying to rack up as many points as we can. It was the first goal we’ve conceded at Easter Road in the league so we can’t be too hard on ourselves.
“We’ve been on a decent run and we are still undefeated at home. But we know we drew too many matches last season so that’s a habit we don’t want to slip into this year.
“To be honest, I think we were feeling a little bit sluggish after Wednesday, it probably took a bit out of us both mentally and physically. The legs were a bit heavy, we looked half a yard off it in the first half and so lacked a bit of quality.
“I don’t think there was any lack of effort, we kept going right to the end but there was a quick turnaround in games, playing Saturday, Wednesday Saturday. But that’s not an excuse, we have to be better if we are going to win games.
“The gaffer had warned us it was going to be a tough game. St Mirren’s recent run of results hadn’t been that great but they were a decent team with players that can hurt you on the counter attack.”
Buddies’ boss Ian Murray made that point himself, revealing he’d been happy to concede to Hibs in the middle of the park to allow his two quickest players, Gallagher and Paul McMullan, to stay further up the pitch, that tactic being rewarded with an 18th minute opener. However, thereafter Hibs goalkeeper Mark Oxley did not have a save to make, the Capital club enjoying 64 per cent of possession over the 90 minutes but unable to convert their pressure into further goals although Stevenson himself went close with an effort from wide on the left which sailed over the head of Jamie Langfield only to crash back off the bar. The Saints goalkeeper later pulled off a point-blank save from substitute Dominique Malonga’s header.
Adamant his shot was intentional rather than a mis-directed cross, the 27-year-old, who has only scored five goals, three of them last season, in his ten years with Hibs, said: “Okay, I’m not known for those sort of shots, but it was meant.
“I tried to go for accuracy rather then power and I felt I was a bit unlucky. It would have been great to see it go in because Saints would then have had to come at us a bit if they wanted to take anything from the game rather than getting everyone behind the ball and looking to hit us on the break.
“I did have another shot blocked later on which might have had even more chance of going in. But it just summed up our day, it was one of those that didn’t go our way.”
Saints’ approach was one which is becoming increasingly familiar to fans at Easter Road, sit in, make life difficult for Stubbs’ players and hope to either hold out for a point or snatch a goal on the counter attack. Morton, Raith Rovers and Alloa Athletic had all previously failed in that regard, but Saints succeeded, Gallagher timing his run perfectly to beat David Gray, the last defender, before sliding the ball beyond the helpless Mark Oxley.
Stevenson said: “They then had something to hang onto until Martin equalised just before half-time. I think we all thought at that point we’d go on to win the match. We did have a lot of possession in the second half but without creating too many clear-cut chances.
“But now it’s a case of getting back onto the training ground this week to prepare for Queen of the South on Saturday and look to take three points from that trip to Dumfries.”