Hibs defender Darren McGregor reveals WWE comparison after clash with Rangers midfielder Glen Kamara
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And, although he made just his second league appearance of the season on Wednesday night, he was again granted a ringside seat as one of the key moments of the game unfolded.
He was on hand to watch as his team-mate Ryan Porteous became a victim of a sneaky Alfredo Morelos stamp and was aghast that referee Kevin Clancy deemed it unworthy of any admonishment, especially as he was later booked for his first infringement.
“I said to the referee at the time [that it was a stamp]. I don’t think there was much malice in it in terms of [Morelos] going out to hurt Porteous. But I think he could have put his foot in a different place, so make of that what you will.”
“I thought for my first foul it was a bit harsh. But then some of the guys said they thought I was in WWE for a minute so maybe that is why I got booked!”
There was no enduring sense of injustice, though, even after Morelos popped up in the 51st minute to score what proved to be the only goal of the match.
“I don’t focus too much on the minute details of the game, I think what will be will be,” said the former Rangers centre-half who captained the side after being promoted to the starting line-up in place of Paul Hanlon. “They are a really good team. We had a game plan and stuck to it but they got the goal that changed the game.”
It meant that despite a first half that had been fairly balanced, as both sides competed well without producing real quality, Rangers were able to swing matters in their favour.
They had Hibs pinned back for a while at the start of the second half and made the important breakthrough. But, just days after their resolve was questioned by their own manager Jack Ross, the Leith side scrambled to regain a foothold and, having steadied themselves, fought for an equaliser.
“He said he wasn’t happy and he has made a point of saying that in the press as well,” revealed McGregor, who had been on the bench at Hampden as the Hibs side that had started so well in their Betfred Cup semi-final against St Johnstone, caved after going behind.
A player who had been utilised regularly in the early matches in that competition, as the likes of Porteous and Hanlon had been on international duty, his only other Premiership showing prior to Wednesday had come as a first-half substitute in the Easter Road side’s league draw with the Perth side, in November.
But, looking for a re-jig and a reaction, he was one of those thrust into the fray against Rangers, along with Melker Hallberg and Christian Doidge. And, whether it was the personnel changes or the verbal dressing down, something provoked a stronger response against the league leaders.
“[The manager] will usually come in [to the training ground] on the Monday and he might change some of the words that he said at half-time or full-time but, this week, I think he wanted to double down and he said that it wasn’t good enough and that, in stages, it was way, way below the bar that he sets. I think having that conversation and then seeing the performance on Wednesday night shows that everyone has taken heed of that.
“We spoke about it at the start of the week and our reaction sometimes, to conceding or in the face of adversity, isn’t what we would want. We had an open air conversation about it and everyone said their piece and I thought you saw a reaction from that.
“Listen, myself, and probably the fans that watch it, won’t mind getting beat as long as you give your all and I think you saw that on Wednesday night. We have come away from the game with no points but I felt we were in a much better place than at the start of the week.”
Mentally, possibly, but with Livingston beating Kilmarnock to extend their unbeaten run to 12 games, David Martindale’s men have moved within five points of Hibs in the second of the Europa League qualifying spots and the West Lothian side still have a game in hand.
That means that a team that had found it pointless to look below the top four positions this term, due to the sizable gap between them and the chasing pack, are now aware there is an in-form side breathing down their necks. That has cranked up the need for Hibs to make a quick return to the business of point collecting on a more consistent basis.
“It is always frustrating when you come away with no points and I thought we were really good in spells. We had to be pragmatic with the pitch and play the game ugly and I thought we did that well. It is always a shame when you come away with zero points having put so much in but we know that Rangers are a very good team.
“We are definitely conscientious of the teams around about us but I think we have got a good squad and we need to show that resilience more often than not. You will accept coming off the park having been defeated as long as you have given your all. If we play like that most weeks we will be fine.”