Hibs cup final reaction: David Gray proud of team's performance, but aggrieved by refereeing decisions

Hibs interim manager David Gray was “proud” of the players but is aggrieved that key decisions went against his team in the Premier Sports Cup final defeat by Celtic.

Sunday, 19th December 2021, 6:03 pm
Updated Sunday, 19th December 2021, 7:52 pm
Hibs caretaker manager David Gray protests against a decision that goes Celtic's way
Hibs caretaker manager David Gray protests against a decision that goes Celtic's way

Gray is expected to relinquish control to a new permanent head coach in the coming days, with Shaun Maloney widely expected to be appointed.

He thanked the players for giving him everything in the three games he has been in charge since the sacking of Jack Ross and said he could not have asked much more of them in the 2-1 defeat at Hampden.

The returning Kyogo Furuhashi scored twice for Celtic after Paul Hanlon's towering header had put Hibs in front.

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The Hibs players are dejected at full time of the Premier Sports Cup final against Celtic at Hampden Park

Kevin Nisbet and Hanlon had gilt-edged chances to force extra time, and Joe Newell was denied by Celtic goalkeeper Joe Hart in stoppage time.

Gray said: “Before the game we asked them to give absolutely everything and to have no regrets after the game – that’s all I can ask for as the coach.

“I’m proud of the players for how much effort and how much they put into the game.”

Gray said he didn’t really see whether or not Kyogo’s equaliser was offside or not, but he is furious about the free-kick Celtic were awarded in the build-up to the Japanese forward’s winning goal and felt Ryan Porteous should have had a penalty for a shove by Carl Starfelt.

Asked about the key decision, he told BBC Sportsound: “It was hard to see with all the smoke. I’ve looked back at it and it is hard to see.

“I think the second one was very poor defending from our point of view, but I don’t believe we should have been defending a free-kick anyway. I’ve watched it back and I don’t understand how that’s a free-kick. If it is a free-kick, how he then misses the foul on Ryan Porteous in the penalty area is beyond me. I’ve no idea how he can give that and not give the penalty.”

Gray said the game plan to frustrate Celtic went well in the first half, but he was disappointed with the defending for both of Kyogo’s goals which came from long balls.

He explained: “Celtic have have always started very fast in games this season. I thought the boys did really well, took the information on board, and I thought they were fantastic and restricted Celtic to very few chances.

“I thought we lacked a little bit of belief and I said that to the boys at half time, to show a little bit more quality and belief when we have the ball rather than turning it over too quickly.

“Credit to the players. I thought we started the second half really well, got the goal. I think the big moments in games, if you can just see through that little period after you’ve scored, the game completely changes. But it is disappointing.

“The manner in which we lose the goals it’s always going to be sore. But we asked the players to give us absolutely everything. Every single player since myself and Eddie [May] have been put in this position to prepare the team, they have given me absolutely everything and I’m very grateful for that.

“In a very difficult situation, from the minute we were put in charge, they have given me everything. I’m very grateful.”

Asked how he galvanised the squad for the final after the disappointment and emotion felt throughout the ranks about the sacking of Ross, Gray said tribute to the players.

“It is always a difficult situation,” he said. “As players you feel a sense of responsibility. The initial shock when it happens is never nice.

“Our job was then to make sure we got a reaction from the players. They have given me absolutely everything.”

As for his own future, Gray said: “My future will be decided moving forward. I was delighted the club made that decision early in the week so that I could let the players know nothing would be happening before today.

“My future and the future of the club will be decided in the coming days.”

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