Neil Lennon today claimed Hibs had “been done” after they were refused a blatant penalty as his side gave Rangers “the biggest battering” he could remember in his time as a manager.
The Easter Road boss was left to bemoan a fatal five minutes at the end of the first half when, after leading by a rare Lewis Stevenson goal, his team conceded twice, Josh Windass and Alfredo Morelos scoring with efforts which he admitted raised questions about his goalkeeper Ofir Marciano.
However, in a storming second half, the Capital outfit had Rangers on the rack, substitute Brandon Barker twice hitting the post while Ibrox defender David Bates got away with handling an Efe Ambrose cross.
“It was a clear handball,” insisted Lennon. “As clear a handball as you will see. It’s hand to ball, he even leans into it. You could tell by the reaction of the crowd on that side and the players and the linesman [Dougie Potter] has a great view of it.”
Lennon revealed he’d spoken to referee Kevin Clancy after the match, the official telling him he didn’t think it was a penalty, an observation which obviously suggested the incident had been spotted.
Claiming he must have been the only person in the stadium not to think that way, Lennon said: “He’s looked to his linesman for help, it’s his decision and he comes to that conclusion. We have been done by that decision. There’s no guarantee you score the penalty but you just want the officials to get the big calls right.”
The defeat – and Lennon pointed out his side had chances to add to Stevenson’s goal – leaves Hibs six points off the pace in the race for second place behind Rangers and Aberdeen but, other than disappointment at the result, he insisted he was delighted with his team’s performance.
“I have been involved with Celtic and that was probably the biggest battering I have given Rangers in my time as a manager,” he said.
“In the second half, we were camped in. The quality of the football we played was fantastic to watch. I don’t feel hard done by because we were sensational.
“We did not get what we deserved – that’s football. We have hit the post twice, we’ve worked the goalkeeper, we made good chances but I think my goalkeeper should do better with the two goals. He will have to look at that himself.
“But, in the throes of the game, we were outstanding. The two wingers [Barker and Martin Boyle] were unplayable in the second half. However, we can’t keep putting in good balls and not get on the end of them – that’s the frustration. We flashed umpteen balls across the box that went begging but the standard of our football was superb. We got to grips with the game and the very least we deserved was a point.”
Although Hibs remain in fourth with the gap widened between them and their rivals for second place, Lennon was adamant his side remain very much in the race although he conceded they could do with a win when they travel to Aberdeen on Saturday.
He said: “There’s still a lot of football to be played – six points is nothing at this stage. I was asked before the game if this was a marker, the marker is over the course of the season.”
Rangers interim boss Graeme Murty admitted he was “walking out of here with three points very gratefully”, adding: “I endured that more than enjoyed it but the lads showed great spirit, great battling nature because I thought Hibs played well. They imposed themselves on us.
“Winning and not playing our best – I think we would have taken that beforehand.”