Hibs reaction: We’re due our slice of luck, says McGregor

Hibs head coach Neil Lennon takes his place in the stand as chairman Rod Petrie looks on
Hibs head coach Neil Lennon takes his place in the stand as chairman Rod Petrie looks on
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If, as Darren McGregor believes, contentious refereeing decisions even themselves out over the course of a season then Hibs will be looking for more than a few slices of luck in their remaining ten Premiership matches.

For the third time in as many months, the Easter Road side found themselves on the wrong side of bad call, in this instance whistler Kevin Clancy pointing to the spot after a shot from Kilmarnock’s Alan Power struck Hibs kid Ryan Porteous.

Florian Kamberi scores his early goal

Florian Kamberi scores his early goal

It was a decision which left Hibs boss Neil Lennon raging, his anger such he was sent to the stand before launching a withering attack on Clancy – accusing him of “incompetence and guesswork” – and claiming the official didn’t get a clear sight of the incident.

Lennon was adamant Power’s shot was going “a mile wide” in any case and replays supported his stance, showing that, yes, the ball had struck Porteous’ right elbow but that the youngster had pulled it in tight to his side.

Clancy was in charge when Hibs were denied a clear penalty when Rangers defender David Bates clearly used his hand to control the ball at Easter Road in December and then, of course, there was the Oli Shaw “ghost goal” at Tynecastle a couple of weeks later.

Three decisions which, arguably, have cost the Capital club a total of five points which would have made a radical difference to today’s table.

Ryan Porteous scores to make it 2-0

Ryan Porteous scores to make it 2-0

Agreeing with Lennon that it was no penalty at Rugby Park, McGregor said: “It happens in football. You get decisions for you and against you. Over the course of a season these even themselves out.

“So I wouldn’t frown too much upon it, but it has happened, and it is unfortunate. We are definitely now due a couple of breaks, and that might work out in our favour.”

McGregor accepted that, potentially, these decisions had cost him and his team-mates points but, insisted the defender, it shouldn’t be allowed to cloud Hibs’ achievements in their first season back in the top flight after a three-year absence.

He said: “It’s just one of these things. You can sit here until the cows come home and make it a feature of our season. But we have done extremely well up until this point and I think we can be proud.

“You could argue that if X, Y or Z had happened, we could have been here or there. But we are in the position that we are in. We’re in a really healthy position and we’ve still got a good few games to go.

“Europe is our benchmark at the moment, that is something, if we achieve it, we will be delighted with, to be honest.”

There is, of course, no guarantee that had those decisions gone in Hibs; favour they’d be so many points better off and, on this occasion, McGregor conceded a draw was a fair result even if they suffered the disappointment of losing a two-goal lead they’d snatched within the opening nine minutes.

Less than 30 seconds were on the clock when Swiss striker Flo Kamberi maintained his recent goalscoring form, displaying lightning fast reactions to flick a ball deflected into his path high into the net before Porteous, only in the side after Paul Hanlon dropped out following the birth of his son the night before, powered home a header.

In the minutes that followed, there could have been an avalanche of goals for the Edinburgh club, Jamie Maclaren sending the ball over the bar, the Aussie striker then thwarted by Killie goalkeeper Jamie MacDonald, who did likewise when Kamberi was left with only him to beat.

It could have been 4-0 with no grounds for complaint from Steve Clarke’s players but they managed to get a grip on the game, Jordan Jones cracking a shot off the woodwork before throwing his side a lifeline on 58 minutes, cutting in from the left to curl a wonderful shot beyond the helpless Ofir Marciano and into the top corner of his net.

Three minutes later came that controversial penalty, Kris Boyd seeing his initial effort saved by Marciano but able to knock the rebound home.

Thereafter, Killie pounded Hibs’ goal, Israeli internationalist Marciano pulling off two super saves in the space of just a couple of minutes from Youssouf Mulumbu, the midfielder having provided the spark for the Ayrshire outfit as he initiated move after move while Jones teased and tormented Efe Ambrose on the wing, the Hibs defender, already on a booking, perhaps lucky to escape a red card when he hauled his opponent down a yard outside the area.

Throughout the second half it was one-way traffic, the stats telling its own story and showing Kilmarnock had 19 shots on goal and 16 corners during the course of the game.

McGregor said: “I think we started the game really well but, after the second goal, we lost our way a wee bit. Kilmarnock came into it and you can see why they’ve won seven straight games at home.

“They play the pitch very well and they’ve got good players. By the end, we were lucky to get out with a point, to be honest.

“Kilmarnock have beaten Celtic and Rangers here so maybe a point isn’t the worst outcome. However, after ten or 15 minutes you’d be expecting to hold on to 2-0 and come away with three points.

“Our aspiration was to come here and take three points but, bar the opening ten minutes, Kilmarnock really did give us a torrid time.”

McGregor agreed that if Hibs had taken the chances which followed Kamberi and Porteous’ goals they’d have won but added: “Two-nil is a funny scoreline, it’s always in the balance but three goals definitely puts it to bed.

“But you have to credit Kilmarnock, their attitude and application really did make it difficult for us.”

Killie’s artificial pitch didn’t escape Lennon’s anger either, the Hibs boss describing it as “abysmal” and “dangerous” to players, accusing Kilmarnock of refusing to water the surface as that would help visiting teams.

Kilmarnock’s Stuart Findlay argued it was the same for both sides and that such accusations weren’t being made earlier in the season as he and his team-mates struggled at home but McGregor said: “Granted that’s true. But they train on it and play on it.

“I’m not claiming that’s the only factor for them doing so well at home, but it is a factor. If definitely does help them and hinder teams that don’t play on it.

“I’d like to see grass pitches at all Premiership grounds but I understand the financial implications of it all. It is obviously beneficial to Kilmarnock to have a pitch like that, but it is frustrating to play on grass most weeks and then have to go there.

“I know it does sound like sour grapes and it is the same for both teams, but it definitely is a factor.”