By Craig Turnbull
Tam McManus believes the controversial handball by David McCracken could come back to haunt Hibernian in the Premiership play-off semi-final against Falkirk.
McManus, who played upfront for both Hibs and Falkirk, was left stunned as referee Alan Muir missed the Falkirk defender seemingly pull the ball away with his hand in the box.
With Hibs 2-1 up at that point, the decision proved to be pivotal as Bob McHugh equalised for the Bairns to leave the tie tantalisingly poised at 2-2 heading into Friday’s return leg.
And former striker McManus thinks it could be a moment which Hibs are made to rue.
“I felt Falkirk got away with one there as it should have been a penalty kick,” he told PLZ Soccer.
“I think most people watching it at home did too. The referee was right in front of it so I don’t know how he could miss it.
“It could boil down to that penalty incident in the next game because Hibs were 2-1 up and were really dominant in that period of the game and looked as if they were going to score another goal.
“If they get a penalty kick – I don’t know if Jason Cummings would have took it and dinked it over the bar – it’s an opportunity for Hibs to go 3-1 up and that would have made such a big difference and made Hibs massive favourites to go through the tie.
“Falkirk are definitely Hibs’ bogey team they were 2-0 up with five minutes to go in the previous game and should have beat them against 10 men at home and drew two each.
“And on Tuesday they’ll be kicking themselves again, wondering how did they not beat them.
“It might just be that Falkirk have the Indian sign over them you never know.”
The pressure will be intensified on the referee Craig Thomson after Muir’s controversial decision but McManus believes it won’t sway the ref in any way on Friday at the Falkirk Stadium.
“It’s a different referee and a different set of circumstances. I wouldn’t like to think the referees could be put under pressure from the decision last night,” he said.
“If something happens in the box and Hibs don’t get it again, then they will be disappointed.
“But you’ve just got to trust the officials to do their job properly and hopefully if something happens at the penalty box at either end then they give the right decision.
“I don’t think it will influence the referee.
“I’m looking forward to it. There’s nothing between the two teams so again Friday could come down to a bit of luck, a break of the ball or a bad decision here or there. I don’t see any team winning by two or three.”