Terry Butcher today apologised to the Hibs support for the “unacceptable” performance against Dundee United which put another huge dent in the Easter Road outfit’s hopes of a first top-six finish in four years.
Butcher admitted it had been “like men against boys” as his side were taken apart by their visitors from Tannadice, agreeing that the final scoreline of 3-1 could have been a lot worse with United twice missing from the penalty spot. And after seeing midfielder Tom Taiwo sent off after picking up two yellow cards for fouls on United’s Paul Paton, the Hibs boss groaned: “Anything that could have gone wrong for us did.”
Butcher was clearly deflated by the display his side had produced. They enjoyed some luck when goalkeeper Ben Williams saved Nadir Ciftci’s penalty – a highly controversial award by referee Euan Norris – but it only delayed matters as the Turkish hitman later opened the scoring.
Jordon Forster threw Hibs a lifeline when he levelled on the stroke of half-time but thereafter Hibs simply fell apart, Gavin Gunning nodding United ahead, Gary Mackay-Steven then blasting a second spot-kick over before substitute Farid El Alagui added a deserved third as United clocked up a fourth successive win.
Butcher said: “They thoroughly deserved their win, no doubt about it, we were beaten, well beaten by a much, much better team. When they are in that mood and when they are allowed to play as we allowed them to play they can carve you open and that’s what they did on many occasions.
“In the end it could have been more. United were strong and their ability and their confidence showed all the way through. It was men against boys and the only thing that went right for us was the two missed penalties.”
Butcher revealed Taiwo was adamant he’d won the ball when he picked up his first booking but admitted Hibs were perhaps lucky not to have ended the match with only nine men when Ryan McGivern, who had been booked for contesting United’s first penalty award, sent United skipper John Rankin hurtling into the touchline hoardings in the dying minutes of the game.
He said: “I thought Mr Norris was going to his top pocket but then realised he had already booked him – but it did look like he was going to get another yellow.”
On a day when Hibs launched their 2014/2015 season ticket campaign, the boos rang round Easter Road on the final whistle, leaving Butcher to say “sorry” for such an inept display.
He said: “We allowed them to play and if you do that you are going to get killed. They certainly destroyed us on many occasions, there’s no two ways about it. I apologise to the Hibs fans because it was unacceptable. It was not nice to watch.”