Neil Lennon has stood his ground over the fracas which marred the end of Hibs’ Championship match with Morton insisting he had nothing to be embarrassed about.
The Easter Road boss and his Cappielow counterpart Jim Duffy were both sent to the stand by referee Nick Walsh following the ugly scenes sparked by a lunge by Morton forward Kudus Oyenuga which sent Hibs defender Jordon Forster crashing to the ground.
Oyenuga was confronted by Darren McGregor and was seen falling over clutching his head having, claimed Lennon after he he, indulged in “an act of cowardice” in conning Walsh into flashing the red card at the Hibs skipper as he, too, was sent off.
In his press conference ahead of this afternoon’s match against Dunfermline, a furious Lennon made it clear he wasn’t only unhappy at the part Duffy, his assistant Craig McPherson and others had played in the incident but the way in which he had been portrayed.
In the immediate aftermath of the no-scoring draw which kept Hibs ten points clear of the Greenock outfit at the top of the table, Lennon had accused Duffy of asking him for “a square go,” a term Duffy, a former Easter Road manager, denied in a statement issued the following day.
And point-by-point Lennon, who revealed that this is the angriest he has ever felt in his long career as player and manager, listed one-by-one where he was at odds with what his opposite number had had to say.
Prefacing that by saying: “I’m unhappy with Jim’s comments after the game and with the statement yesterday. “Where do you want me to start? I’ll start with his comments after the game. I’ve got it here in front of me.” Lennon then began reading passages from Duffy’s after-match quotes.
JD: “There was obviously a fracas?”
NL: “It was much more than a fracas, far more than a fracas.”
JD: “Neil wasn’t happy with Kudus’ challenge.”
NL: “Understatement of the year.”
JD: “The referee was going to send him off anyway.”
NL: “Is he a mind reader. I wasn’t aware of that and I was standing closest to it. And, by the way, I will refer to him as the Morton manager because in his statement he refers to me as the Hibs manager. He doesn’t even have the good grace, courtesy and manners to call me by my name.”
JD: “Obviously there were a few people involved.”
NL: “A few people involved? It must have been at least 20, the majoirty from his staff and his technical area.”
JD: “Maybe it was handbags with a few things inside.” NL: “It was far from handbags. Somebody tried to compare it with the spat I had with Ally McCoist. It was far worse than that. Far worse than that.”
JD: “I’m sure Neil will say the same, it was just emotion.”
NL: “No Neil won’t say the same. I totally disagree with it, it was disgraceful behaviour.”
Adamant he had remonstrated once with Oyenuga and Walsh as Forster lay injured – he’s suffered a shoulder injury which will keep him out of action for three or four weeks. Lennon accused Duffy of having started the unsavoury rumpus.
Lennon insisted he was speaking “euphemistically” in accusing Duffy of offering him a square go, adamant he had qualified it earlier by saying he hadn’t heard what he’d said because it was too noisy.
But, he claimed, he was perfectly entitled to infer from Duffy’s actions that was exactly what was intended.
When it was suggested to Lennon that Duffy had, in fact, come out of the sorry affair worse than he had, he replied: “So he should. But I’m being dragged into it. It was wrong and if I had done it you would be nailing me to the cross.
“I was stood on the touchline and I told the player [Oyenuga] he was a disgrace and then did that to the referee [gestures] ‘get him off’. That does not warrant a manager running at me wanting a fight, or his assistant or his kitman or his first team coach.
“We will see what the beaks have to make of it.”
Lennon made it clear he was annoyed because, as he perceived it, he was being painted as the villain of the piece, accusing Duffy of trying to make light of a very serious incident. adding: “I see the headlines about me. I see the punters in the street talking about me and saying Lennon is at it again. He brings it on himself, all the usual stuff.
“Jim has made a joke of it ‘maybe I should ask Lenny what it is like to go to the SFA’. Very funny! I don’t find it funny.
“I am not having me dragged into it as if I am the protagonist all the time. I did not say he offered me a square go. It was a euphemism. After Oyenuga or whatever his name is halves my player and feigns a headbutt, by the time I’ve looked up he [Duffy] is in my face – not protecting his players, coming for me.
“And his assistant manager, who I want cited as well. If I’m up [in front of the SFA] and the Morton manager is up then I want the Morton assistant manager up as well because he was the one trying to swing punches.”
Lennon revealed he hadn’t spoken to Duffy, someone who he said he had a lot of time for before the events of Wednesday night, since and insisted he had no intention of doing so although Hibs and Morton are due to meet again a week today at Cappielow.
He said: “Why should I? He’s coming at me for a fight, while I’m trying to do my job.”
And Lennon re-iterated his claim that the flashpoint wasworse than his nose-to-nose confrontation with then Rangers boss McCoist six years ago.
“It was 20 times worse than me and Ally,” he insisted, “That was a verbal spat. When people get involved and when they start jumping between people they make it look a lot worse than what it is. That was bad on Wednesday night, the venom, the intent, the aggression was bad.”
Lennon, however, was adamant the focus shouldn’t be on what was or wasn’t or might have been said between him and Duffy, the fact he is a columnist with a national newspaper also appearing to irk him, but on the incident which had precipitated the mayhem.
He said: “That’s not what it is about. It is about their player behaving appallingly on the pitch and no-one has pulled him up about it yet, no-one has asked him the question what happened between him and Darren McGregor or what happened with the tackle.
“I don’t see any quoes from the player apologising. I don’t see anyone from Morton apologising for the tackle. Jim said it was reckless but I didn’t see Jim say anything about the player going down under a head butt when it was far from a head but.
“If that was a Celtic or Rangers player like Kyle Lafferty years ago, then you would have been full of it. If it’s Neil Lennon, full of it.”