GEORGE FOULKES, the Hearts chairman, said last night the row between John Robertson and Hugh Dallas overwho said what in the aftermath of the club's controversial match against Rangers strengthened their call for an SFA inquiry.

The Hearts coach and Scotland's most experienced referee have different viewpoints as to what happened after the game at Tynecastle last Wednesday which Rangers won through a last-minute, controversial penalty.

Robertson maintains assistant referee Andy Davis refused to tell him why he had flagged for a foul on Sotirios Kyrgiakos by Lee Miller when he approached him in the referee's room after the final whistle. However, Dallas, as revealed in The Herald yesterday, has told the SFA that the pair did have a conversation with the assistant referee, making it clear to the Hearts manager his reasons for raising his flag.

Robertson claimed that it was Dallas who spoke to him about the incident, not Davis, and the referee told him that his assistant had clearly seen Miller haul down Kyrgiakos with both hands. However, Dallas is adamant that was not the case and Davis had said he had seen Miller tugging Kyrgiakos's shirt. To show his support of his assistant, Dallas has written a letter to the SFA, outwith his match report, to make that point.

John Borthwick, the secretary of the Federation of Hearts Supporters' Clubs, has called for the SFA to make the Dallas letter public to allow football supporters to make up their minds on the matter.

Foulkes rejected any suggestion that the club's calls for an SFA inquiry into the "integrity" of the penalty decision had been compromised. "This incident strengthens our case more than anything, " said Foulkes. "I wasn't in the referee's room when the matterwas discussed so I can't comment on who said what.

"However, what I can say is that if there was an inquiry, witnesses could be called, including John Robertson and Hugh Dallas, who could make clear their version of events. The fact there is a disagreement over who said what between them both strengthens our call for an inquiry and the need to get to the bottom of things. It is not unusual for two people to have different interpretations of the same conversation."

It was put to him that such a tactic could backfire if both Dallas and Davis made statements to any inquiry which suggested Robertson had made misleading statements. The Hearts chairman replied: "We have called for an inquiry on a much wider basis than just a conversation between John Robertson and Hugh Dallas."

Foulkes said the SFA would make "fools of themselves" if they decided to take action against the club for calling for an inquiry to be held.

There is a growing feeling within football's governing body that some action has to be taken to draw a line under the incident and show faith in the integrity of referees and assistant referees.

Hearts have written to John McBeth, SFA president, and a letter from him will be sent to the Tynecastle club within the next few days. It is believed McBeth will reject their calls for an inquiry outright and may criticise them for raising the matter in the first place.

For any action to be taken against Hearts, a special SFA emergency committee would have to be held and there is a possibility that might still happen.

Foulkes was adamant last night that the club had a clear case for an inquiry and it was now up to the SFA to make a decision.

"The ball is very much in their court now, " said Foulkes.

"I think the SFA must be careful about making fools of themselves by any talk of penalising Hearts for what they think is bringing the game into disrepute.

"We should not be afraid to say that principles which apply in other walks of life should be applied to football as well."

Meanwhile, Hearts have taken drastic action in their bid to stop a flu epidemic sweeping through the squad by closing the club for two days. They took the decision to have a complete shutdown on both Monday and Tuesday after consulting their club doctor Dewar Melvin in the aftermath of Saturday's 1-1 draw at Dunfermline.

Robertson and his assistant Donald Park were suffering the effects of flu at the weekend while players Mark Burchill, Christophe Berra and Robbie Neilson were all showing symptoms. Club captain Steven Pressley has been laid low through illness for the past week.

Players and management will return to training this morning to start preparing for Saturday's visit of an Inverness Caledonian Thistle side buoyed by their draw with Rangers at the weekend.