Rarely do Hearts find themselves agreeing with Neil Lennon. However, the Hibs manager’s statement that Hamilton employ “caveman” tactics was reinforced by his Edinburgh rivals’ complaints after Saturday’s tempestuous affair at Tynecastle Park.
Hearts felt equally aggrieved at referee Bobby Madden as they did their Lanarkshire opponents at the end of this 1-1 draw. True to his name, the official managed to madden just about everyone inside the stadium at one point or another as he lost all control. He wasn’t helped, it must be said, by some of the antics on the field and in the technical areas.
Jamie Walker arced a sublime free-kick into the top corner to open the scoring early in the second half. Xavier Tomas then headed Hamilton level on 69 minutes. But enough about silly incidental things like goals. This game had everything else and more in a uniquely Scottish way.
Hearts teenager Jamie Brandon was red-carded for elbowing, manager Craig Levein was sent to the stand, and his assistant Austin MacPhee followed after wrestling on the ground with Hamilton’s Darian MacKinnon inside the technical area. Police and stewards waded in to restore order before giving Madden a security escort off the field at full-time.
It was full-on chaos for much of the second half. At the end of a game lacking much quality, Hearts left the field feeling Hamilton’s fouling had repeatedly gone unpunished by Madden and his officials.
“It was eventful. Some of the decisions were farcical at times but that’s what you’re dealt,” said Christophe Berra, the Hearts captain. “I wasted half my energy disputing some of the decisions. There was one on the touchline where the guy has clearly barged me. It’s hard to keep calm. I got a yellow card early doors and it was hard. On another day some people might have lost it. It was just frustrating.”
Berra agreed with Levein’s assertion that the referee failed to control proceedings. “I would back that up. I know you’re at home and the fans can be after every decision, but come on, some of the decisions were a joke. It’s a tough job but still, you expect standards. I know you have bad days, but they weren’t hard decisions. You just want fair decisions.
“Throughout the game, there was a lot more going on than people saw, for both sides. It’s just frustrating. I could sit here all day, but you have to watch what you say.”
Brandon’s first-half dismissal – a second caution for elbowing Antonio Rojano after a late tackle on Hamilton’s Dougie Imrie – was justified by television replays. With Hearts 1-0 up, Levein protested at decisions in the second half and Madden ran across to speak with him during a break in play. The official stood five yards from the manager and motioned him over like a headmaster summoning a pupil. Levein refused to move and was then ordered out of the technical zone.
MacPhee took charge but didn’t last long. MacKinnon approached him for the ball to take a throw, MacPhee released it behind him as MacKinnon tried to grab it and both men were then sprawling on the turf. Players and staff from both sides charged in and it took police and stewards to calm everyone down. The Hearts goalkeeping coach Paul Gallacher was especially irate.
Madden, bizarrely, addressed the mayhem by sending MacPhee to sit beside Levein behind the home dugout. MacKinnon had already been booked but was not punished for his role in the incident. That left Jon Daly, third in command at Hearts, to step from the dugout and take over. Those inside the home camp felt the situation stemmed from Madden’s poor decision making.
“Yes, I think so. It just felt like some decisions he just wanted to give against you,” said Berra. “We’ve got a point from a tough game. The first half was difficult. Playing with ten men for nearly an hour, it was a long time but with ten men we actually played better. We scored a good free-kick and they’ve scored from a corner, which is disappointing. When all the things were against us, we showed good character, dug in and got a point. Hamilton have been in great form recently. All credit to them. They made it very difficult.”
The club captain has played top-level international football and experienced England’s Premier League, but never before has he been involved in such a disorderly 90 minutes. “I don’t think so, no. It was just strange. I can’t really explain what I’d like to say. I’ve said to the ref what I feel. I’ve gone about it in the right manner, but sometimes they don’t take it on board. You just get on with it.”
In total, Madden brandished nine yellow cards and one red. “Don’t get me wrong, you get bad refereeing down south,” continued Berra. “There are difficult decisions, split-second decisions, and it’s a hard job, the toughest job of them all probably. You get the good with the bad but Saturday was just a wee bit … you can see it yourselves.
“That one on the touchline, Jon Daly said to me that the linesman was on his mic saying: ‘It’s a free-kick.’ But for some reason the referee decided two seconds later to say: ‘Oh, you took a heavy touch’.
“I went past the line. I’ve just been taken out. It doesn’t matter if I took a heavy touch, I’ve been taken out. Anyway, we get on with it. We got a point. I’m disappointed we didn’t win but it was a tough game doing down to ten men.”
Hearts’ resilience shone through despite their numerical disadvantage and that pleased Levein. After a 15 minute delay to kick-off caused by a faulty fire alarm, goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin enjoyed probably his best performance since joining. He produced several excellent saves during mounting second-half pressure from Hamilton.
Indeed, the Lanarkshire side recorded seven shots on target to Hearts’ one. The draw means Hearts have now gone six games without a win, whilst Accies are now six in a row without defeat.
Visiting midfielder Dougie Imrie gave his version of events and offered praise for referee Madden. “I had to calm a few people down but some of it was stupidity and I thought the referee handled it well,” he stated. “There was a lot of incident to deal with but he took his time and he chose what he thought was the right option. People got involved in situations that they didn’t need to.
“From my view the kid [Brandon] is naïve when he tackles me for his first booking. I am past him and he dives in and takes me out. I didn’t see the second one with Antonio but someone said it was an elbow to the face, so if the ref seen it he got it right but I can’t comment.
“The one with Darian, I am on the other side of the park so I couldn’t see what was going on. After it, people got involved but it was all needless. Hearts are down to ten men and Daz is on a booking so maybe they are trying to get him to react to get him a second booking and get him sent off. You can understand that as they are trying to make it even.
“People got involved when they didn’t have to and it blew it out of proportion a little bit. I came over to get people out of the way and I didn’t want to get involved. I wanted to let the referee deal with it and move on. Maybe ten years ago I would have been in the middle of it but not now. There is no point getting involved because the referee isn’t going to change his mind. If you get involved and something happens you might end up getting booked, so what is the point?
“I thought the ref did well and maybe Hearts have a bit of sour grapes. Their manager and Austin MacPhee have been sent to the stand and they have dropped two points. Maybe on another day we could have been in that situation and we could be saying something similar.”