PAUL Hanlon has claimed referee Bobby Madden ordered Hibs not to contest a drop ball as they chased an equaliser in the closing stages of Sunday’s controversial defeat to Rangers.

The Easter Road outfit were desperate to pile pressure on makeshift keeper Ross McCrorie in the wake of Allan McGregor’s red card for lashing out at Marc McNulty.

But at an injury-time corner, a Rangers fan launched a second ball into play, resulting in Madden having to stop play and restarting with a drop ball at the edge of the box.

Hibs were eager to challenge for possession so close to their hosts’ goal and the potentially McCrorie.

However, Hanlon said Madden told them they would have to agree to Rangers giving them the ball back, with Connor Goldson subsequently lashing the ball back into the capital club’s half of the pitch and out for a throw-in.

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The defender explained: “At the time, we were desperate to contest the drop ball. It was inside their penalty box and we didn’t want the ball going all the way back our keeper.

“So, we wanted to contest it, but the referee said that if Rangers wanted to give us the ball back we weren’t allowed to contest it. I didn’t know that was the rule now, but that seems to be the case. We were trying to build momentum and keep the pressure on and that kind of put us a bit on the back foot again.”

The defeat - manager Paul Heckingbottom’s first in the league since taking over - ruled Hibs out of the race for third and fourth.

Seven points adrift of Aberdeen with two games remaining, the Easter Road men will be seeking to protect the three-point advantage they have over city rivals Hearts, who are back in sixth.

Hanlon added: “The manager has said to us that, obviously, we want to try to win the games and implement his style and get better at what he’s asking us to do.

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“It’s two chances to do that between now and the end of the season.

“Hopefully we can finish strongly and look forward to next season now.

“You can say now it was probably a long shot at one stage in the season to get to where we are now and to be challenging for third and fourth. But we gave it a good go and it wasn’t to be.

“But we won’t be dropping our standards in the last two games, that’s for sure.”