David Gray hails players after cup final loss and has his say on free kick and penalty

David Gray hailed his Hibs players for their efforts in the Premier Sports Cup final defeat by Celtic but bemoaned two refereeing decisions and one costly error by his team in the lead-up to the winning goal.

By Patrick McPartlin
Sunday, 19th December 2021, 7:34 pm
Updated Sunday, 19th December 2021, 8:12 pm
David Gray urges his team on during the Premier Sports Cup final
David Gray urges his team on during the Premier Sports Cup final

Gray, who is expected to end his period as interim boss this week, said afterwards: “There is disappointment, but I am also really proud of the players. The way they have handled everything in the last ten days has been a credit to them. They gave myself and Eddie [May] absolutely everything from the moment we took over.

"I thought we were good in the game. I said to the boys beforehand that as long as they gave me absolutely everything and came away with no regrets they would be in a good place come the end. Unfortunately, we just couldn’t get it over the line.”

HIbs might have had a penalty in injury time after Carl Starfelt pushed Ryan Porteous over in the box, with Gray voicing his disbelief at differing calls from referee John Beaton for two broadly similar incidents.

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“The disappointing thing for us is we got a goal, went in front, and then lost a goal so quickly. It was a massive blow. It would have been a bit different if we could have held out for the next five or ten minutes.

"The second goal from our point of vew is not good enough defensively. The players know that, but I don’t think they should have been defending a free-kick in the first place.

"I don’t understand how it is a foul on the halfway line. If that is a foul on the halfway line I have no idea how it’s not a penalty in the box late on. I don’t see how one can be a foul and the other one not be.

"I don’t get it at all. I am disappointed with the two decisions that were made.”

Asked if he felt there was a hint of offside for either of Kyogo Furuhashi’s goals, Gray pointed to his side’s defending.

"Regardless, it is too easy from our point of view,” he insisted.

"Having got ourselves in front during the game, that is when we are most vulnerable. That proved to be the case. We needed to be switched on and defending the ball better regardless of whether he was onside or not with how tight it is.

"The second one, I think we switch off. Once the referee awards the foul, which I didn’t think was a foul, we should have been defending a free-kick, but we weren’t.

"It is about that reaction, us defending that better. But he isn’t offside for the second one.”

Gray’s half-time message to his players was to show more belief in themselves.

He added: “When we did win the ball back we were too quick to give it back or play it forward. It was important we believed in ourselves and backed our ability on the ball and try and take the sting out the game on the front foot, knowing that the game would open up as we go on.

"I was delighted when we got ourselves in front. If we had just held onto the lead for a little bit longer it might have been a bit different.”