Alan Stubbs claimed being denied a “stonewall” penalty helped prevent Hibs reclaiming second place in the Labrokes Championship.
The Easter Road side were forced to settle for a draw, fighting back through Jason Cummings’ 17th goal of the season after Blair Alston had given Falkirk an early second-half advantage, but, like Peter Houston’s side, now trail leaders Rangers by five points.
Stubbs will be buoyed that Anthony Stokes, who was in the stand at Falkirk yesterday, is on the verge of completing his loan move from Celtic to Hibs, but the incensed head coach was convinced the Capital club should have been awarded a penalty when Falkirk defender Luke Leahy impeded John McGinn, only for referee John Beaton to refuse to point to the spot.
McGinn was at the centre of a controversial penalty award last time the clubs met at the Westfield Stadium, Cummings’ spot-kick condemning the Bairns to their only home defeat of the season so far. However, Stubbs insisted that incident in October should have had no bearing while adamant McGinn had been too honest for his own good by not going to ground.
He said: “I do not know why it was not given. Whatever way you look at it, it was a stonewall penalty. I am very surprised it was not given. I think probably John has been penalised for being too honest, he should just have rolled around.”
When it was pointed out McGinn himself didn’t make much of the incident, Stubbs retorted: “That’s called honesty. If there’s contact in the box and you go down, it’s a penalty. It doesn’t make a difference if someone tries to get back up, it doesn’t make any difference if there was no appeal for it. It’s irrelevant. If there’s contact inside the box outside influences should not have a bearing on the decision.”
Although Falkirk boss Peter Houston felt both sides had fallen below the standards they have set in recent weeks, Stubbs admitted he was disappointed not to have won, particularly in a grandstand finish in which Bairns goalkeeper Danny Rogers pulled off a magnificent save to deny Cummings a second goal of the game with only four minutes on the clock.
He said: “Our standards are so high right now we expect to win every game. But you have to give Falkirk a bit of respect. This isn’t an easy place to come. Their results have been very good, you only have to look at where they are.
“We are the only team to have beaten Falkirk here so that could prove to be a really good point come the end of the season, you just do not know.
“I feel we did enough, more so in the last 30-35 minutes after we went behind to have won the game.
“I’m always disappointed when we do not pick up the three points but the response and character of the players was really good. We had a couple of opportunities to win it and it was one of those games I didn’t want the final whistle to come because I felt we were going to get a winner at some stage.”
Celtic striker Stokes, who Stubbs expects to clinch his loan deal and return to Easter Road today, and Kevin Thomson, inset, were both at the game, with the former Hibs midfielder set to take up a role as a player/coach.
Stubbs said: “We hope we can get Stokes tied up today, I’ll be happy when that’s done.
“Once we get Kevin done he will give us a bit of experience in the dressing room. He will probably incorporate that with some coaching with the younger groups. I’m confident that will be done, I have no reason to think otherwise.”
Stubbs admitted he was surprised to hear Thomson was departing Dundee where he had been captain, his contract mutually terminated, but added: “We found out last week something could be happening, it all seemed to happen quite quickly as did a couple of other things.”
Now Stubbs believes the presence of Stokes and Thomson will be of great importance given the matches Hibs face in coming weeks, chasing Rangers for the title, a League Cup semi-final against St Johnstone and a fifth round Scottish Cup tie with Capital rivals Hearts.
He said: “The next four or five weeks we’ll start to see how things are panning out and that will give us an indication of how we are going to finish the season.
“Every game, and it is the same for other teams in similar positions, is going to be a big game.”