Sproule backs Garry over diving claims

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IVAN SPROULE has said a two-match ban for his Hibs team-mate Garry O’Connor would be “harsh” as a diving incident is reviewed later today by a Scottish FA tribunal.

O’Connor won a penalty against St Johnstone last week as opponent David McCracken was adjudged by referee Steve Conroy to have clipped the Hibs striker inside the penalty area, but the case was set to be considered by the Judicial Review Panel at Hampden this afternoon after Saints manager Derek McInnes claimed O’Connor dived.

The striker would incur a two-match suspension if found guilty of an act of simulation, but Northern Irish winger Sproule said the judgement of the match officials during the match in question must be taken into account before a decision is made.

“It would be so harsh on Garry if he ends up copping a two-game ban for that incident last week,” said Sproule, 30. “He has been scoring regularly and has been our shining light up front. He would be a massive miss if he is suspended. We would rather see him in the starting XI, not the stands.

“You don’t want to open a can of worms with referees but myself and the referee were close to the incident and the assistant had a clear view of it, too, and both gave the penalty.

“These things should be taken into consideration. Garry knocked the ball past the St Johnstone lad, went round the other side and there was a slight contact. A striker is right to go down in that situation as you see players looking for penalties every weekend.”

Sproule insists he has seen no evidence that O’Connor has an inclination to dive. “I have never known Garry to be a diver,” said Sproule. “It is tricky because when a striker goes into the box and feels contact he is going to go down. You see players week in, week out who do dive and make a habit of it. I am not pointing fingers but if you asked anybody involved in football to name a diver they could give you one. Big Gaz is certainly not in that mould and it is not in his make-up to dive.”