BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
HEARTS head coach Robbie Neilson has hit back at Martin Canning after the Hamilton boss claimed Ali Crawford’s lunge on Jamie Walker was “not as bad as it’s being made out to be”.
Neilson was fuming in the aftermath of the breathless 3-3 draw on Monday night, insisting referee Steven McLean should have dismissed the playmaker for the hefty challenge.
However, Canning took a barely concealed wipe at his opposite number when he stated “Ali won the ball” and suggested the severity of the incident had been overblown.
The Tynecastle gaffer said: “Martin did not think it was a penalty when Don Cowie was clearly fouled, either! Managers see different things because they are trying to protect their players.
“The player [Crawford] showed intent in the tackle and my opinion on it has not changed.
“It is a red card; let’s be honest – everybody knows it is a red card and the referee didn’t give it. Why not? Who knows.
“Thankfully Jamie Walker saw the challenge coming and managed to get his legs up – but if his feet had have been planted he would have been in trouble. My complaint is that Jamie did not get protection from the referee.
“I accept that Jamie will take physical contact as he takes the ball in tight areas and he takes people on. But when it steps over the line then it is up the referee to deal with it.”
However, Neilson reckons that, in hindsight, the fact Crawford was not given his marching orders during the fiery clash could work in the Jambos’ failure.
He added: “It didn’t affect the result as it was the last minute of the game.
“In retrospect I am actually glad that he did not send Crawford off, as he is going to be playing teams that are round about us and it gives them a better advantage to beat teams that we are competing with.
“I won’t be chasing it up as it is done and dusted.”
Neilson, meanwhile, has attempted to accentuate the positives from a fourth successive fixture without a victory.
Hearts have only won two matches in their last eight and have conceded 10 goals in four fixtures, nevertheless Neilson believes the fighting spirit shown to battle back from 3-1 down at Hamilton hints at a positive run to come.
The capital club host Motherwell on Saturday before facing Rangers in midweek.
And Neilson added: “We did give away a couple of sloppy goals and had to fight back but we have to try to look at the positives from that.
“It would have been quite easy, on a cold, windy Monday night at Hamilton, at 3-1 down, to down tools. But we didn’t, we fought back, as we did at Inverness. So it shows there is a belief there and a togetherness, they want to do well.
“Hopefully we can carry that through and get back to winning matches against Motherwell.”