Lennon escapes with two-match ban










Neil Lennon was celebrating a shock reprieve last night after a day of disciplinary drama at Hampden.

The Celtic boss has copped a two-game ban after criticising ref Willie Collum for failing to award a penalty in the Hoops’ League Cup Final defeat to Kilmarnock.

However, Lennon escaped further punishment after pleading guilty to a reduced charge following a tunnel bust-up involving fourth official Iain Brines during the Old Firm match at Ibrox in May.

Lennon will now watch the final Old Firm game of the season on April 29 from the Parkhead stand and will also be missing from the dugout at Motherwell on Sunday.

He faces another date with the beaks but enjoyed a partial victory over his row with the officials at Ibrox.

An SFA panel of Hamilton secretary Scott Struthers, Lanarkshire refs’ boss Ray Morrison and Crown Office official John Tannahill heard evidence from Brines alone yesterday before both sides moved to strike a deal.

They decided Lennon had been punished enough by being sent to the stand by ref Calum Murray for the second half of the game.

Lennon was originally charged with “misconduct by dissent, the adoption of aggressive behaviour towards an official and the repeated use of offensive, abusing, insulting language”.

Brines reported he heard comments from Lennon in the tunnel at half-time that he believed were aimed at colleague Murray.

Lennon furiously denied the charge or allegations he used abusive language but insiders insisted the evidence Brines offered yesterday was not at odds with the original statements he made in his report to match observers.

It was decided that any language used by Lennon was within “permissible guidelines” but Celtic did agree their boss was guilty of “dissent and adopting aggressive behaviour”.

Brines stood by his original evidence but the context in which Lennon’s comments were made was discussed by Celtic’s QC Derek Ogg and SFA compliance officer Vincent Lunny and led to the watered-down charge.

A spokesperson for Celtic said: “We we are satisfied with the fairness and spirit of the hearing and no appeal will be made against the findings or sanctions.”

Lennon’s two-game ban came after he described Collum’s failure to award Celtic a spot kick late on in their 1-0 final defeat to Kilmarnock as “criminal”.

Lennon’s admission of guilt yesterday could cost him a heavier ban as he prepares to face another two charges from the SFA beaks.

He faces a hearing for confronting ref Euan Norris after the semi-final defeat to Hearts and is also certain to be asked to explain tweets he made after the match.

Lennon has also been asked to explain his comments about refs before a recent game against St Johnstone.

But if the SFA act on his comments, it seems certain Lennon will escape with a censure at most.