Pat FENLON fears refereeing blunders could cost Hibs a top-six finish and tens of thousands of pounds in bonus money, claiming glaring mistakes have robbed the Easter Road outfit of four precious points in recent weeks.
While Hibs currently sit sixth, they are just one point ahead of Dundee United and two in front of Kilmarnock and Aberdeen. But Fenlon believes that was it not for the errors made by officials, the Capital outfit’s place in the upper half of the SPL would be all but assured today.
Fenlon was left baffled and bemused as referee Euan Norris and his assistant Raymond Whyte failed to see Leigh Griffiths’ stunning free-kick land a yard inside Hearts goalkeeper Jamie MacDonald’s net in the latest Edinburgh derby, just as he was stunned when whistler Alan Muir pointed to the spot for a Ryan McGivern trip on Gary Mackay-Steven at Tannadice which clearly took place outside the penalty area.
Throw in a dodgy penalty which allowed Kilmarnock to draw level in the William Hill Scottish Cup quarter-final at Rugby Park and it’s easy to understand why Fenlon wants officials to explain their controversial decisions rather than hide behind a wall of silence.
Norris and Whyte were virtually the only people inside Easter Road who didn’t see Griffiths’ effort cross the line, the Hibs striker claiming even Hearts captain Andy Webster had told him the ball was “a yard over”. Hibs substitute Kevin Thomson, who was warming up on the byline, said he was jumping up and down celebrating as he believed the ball was “miles in” and caretaker Hearts manager Gary Locke admitted his side had “got away with it”.
Norris, however, told Hibs’ players on the final whistle, with the game having ended in a no-scoring draw, that he couldn’t give the goal if he wasn’t sure, prompting Fenlon to observe: “Once he has a look I’m sure he’ll change his opinion.”
The incident again raised the debate over goal-line technology, the SFA having recently ruled out such a move on the basis it would cost £250,000 per ground, but Fenlon believes it should be considered and that referees should be made to explain decisions.
Asked if he’d ever seen a worse decision than that made yesterday, Fenlon said: “Yes, at Dundee United a couple of weeks ago. It’s disappointing as that’s four big points we have lost rather than dropped.
“I am not going to hammer referees but I think they should be coming out to explain decisions. Those two decisions could prove very costly and I said that to the referee.
They can cost people places
and money, so there’s a lot at stake.”
Pointing out that Norris had asked for a yellow ball to make visibility easier as Easter Road was engulfed in a hailstorm – although it had abated by the time of that pivotal 77th minute incident – Fenlon said: “If it’s a case where it’s close to the line, okay, but this was nearly in the back of the net. The game was very, very tight and it was going to take something special to decide it and that was a fantastic strike from Leigh.”
As for goal-line technology? Fenlon said: “I think when you look at the possibility of what it can cost clubs, you have to weigh it up and see where the balance is.”