Craig Levein has urged Hearts to stand up to a character test following another costly refereeing decision in their Premiership draw at St Johnstone.
A penalty awarded by referee Andrew Dallas gave the hosts a 2-2 draw at McDiarmid Park. However, replays showed no contact between the Hearts midfielder Peter Haring and St Johnstone substitute Liam Gordon.
Levein stormed on to the field at full-time to confront Dallas and the pair had a momentary exchange before the Hearts manager walked away in disgust.
The controversy came just three days after Rangers’ win at Tynecastle courtesy of an offside goal scored by Alfredo Morelos. Levein said his squad are angry at the poor decision-making and admitted they face a test of mental resolve amid a run of seven games without a win.
Arnaud Djoum headed Hearts in front last night but Blair Alston levelled. Oliver Bozanic restored the visitors’ advantage near the end of the first half. The penalty then denied Hearts a first league win in Perth for eight years.
“Have you seen it? What’s softer than soft?” complained Levein. “I’ve only seen three angles and I can’t see anything but I will let you guys write what you think because I will just get myself into trouble.
“It’s certainly a test of character for the players, for myself and for the supporters. But all credit to the boys. I thought we built on our performance on Sunday in a notoriously difficult place to come to.
“St Johnstone have been on a great run of form, not conceding any goals, and I thought we were pretty good. We aren’t back to the levels we can be at, and we won’t be until we get our main players back. However, it was another step forward after Sunday.”
Asked what he said to Dallas at the end, Levein replied: “I don’t even want to (go there). I didn’t say anything untoward. I can assure you of that.
“The players are annoyed and a bit frustrated. Andrew said he saw a shirt pull but the ball’s not anywhere near him. Even if he’s pulled the shirt off him it does not matter. But I’m not going there.
“There were a lot of positives for us. I was really pleased with Christophe Berra. I thought Clevid [Dikamona] did much better. Sean Clare is getting better all the time and I thought Arnaud Djoum had his best game of the season so far. There are a lot of positives but I find it really difficult to believe what’s happened.”
The St Johnstone manager Tommy Wright saw his team come from behind twice but felt they deserved to win. “I was disappointed to lose two points,” he remarked. “We were by far the better team and they barely laid a glove on us.
“We dealt with their physicality. They are a strong team, dangerous at set-plays but at the first goal we didn’t shut down the cross and then at the second we allowed the smallest man on the pitch to score.
“I was disappointed with our defending but pleased that we showed character to bounce back and dominate. Only one team deserved to win the game. It’s great to keep the unbeaten run going against a good side but in the cold light of day we should not have conceded the two goals we did. Zander only had one save to make I think, apart from the goals.”
On the penalty award, Wright said sarcastically: “According to Craig, he’s seen it three or four times and it’s not a penalty, so it mustn’t be. But I think we should give referees a break.”