Neil Lennon has accused Hearts defender Ben Garuccio of unacceptable behaviour in trying to get Hibs striker Florian Kamberi sent off following a flashpoint in the Edinburgh derby.
Kamberi, who had already been booked by referee Andrew Dallas for persistent fouling, found himself at the centre of a melee after his aerial challenge on Olliver Bozanic left the Hearts player lying face down on the Tynecastle turf. The Swiss striker, who had reacted furiously as he was surrounded by angry Hearts players, was shown a second yellow card, leaving his team-mates to play the last 26 minutes a man short, the Easter Road side holding on to take a point from the Premiership leaders.
But Lennon disputed whether Kamberi should have been shown one yellow card – far less two – saying: “The first one was a totally ridiculous decision and Flo tailed off a bit because he was wary of getting a second. Then he made a genuine attempt to go for the ball. The challenge he went in with Bozanic is a fair a one, 50/50. Why it is a free-kick to Hearts I will never know. He was strong but it was a genuine attempt to go for the ball. Then there was a lot of goading from the Hearts players to get him sent off. He was cajoled, intimidated.
“Garuccio, the left-back, was desperate to get him a red card. He was waving an imaginary yellow card and that’s unacceptable. That’s why you need the referee to be stronger.
“I have sympathy for Flo because he definitely didn’t warrant the first yellow and there was nothing in the challenge.
“I’m not convinced the referee got that one right but it changed the flow of the game. It upsets your plans and we had to make changes we did not want to make at the time.
“Hearts had more possesion but they really did not do much with it. I wasn’t happy with the point. I wanted all three, and up to the sending-off we were probably looking more likely.”
Hibs, who are already without the injured David Gray, Paul Hanlon and Thomas Agyepong, will now also have Kamberi, scorer of eight goals this season, missing for tomorrow’s visit from St Johnstone.
Tommy Wright’s side are full of confidence having won their last three matches to sit just a point behind the Capital club.
Saints brought Livingston’s seven-match unbeaten run to an end with a 1-0 victory at the Tony Macaroni Arena on wednesday and Lennon is conscious of the fact the Perth club have been something of a thorn in his team’s side.
He said: “St Johnstone are going well. It was a great win at Livingston and, after losing heavily to Celtic, they’ve won three on the bounce. They are a dangerous team, one that we have not beaten but I was really proud of my players at Tynecastle. I was absolutely delighted with the performance so we’ll be prepared for them.”