THE biggest reaction to Hibs slinking into the top six with a battling draw at St Johnstone on Saturday arguably didn’t come from the massive travelling support, but from the press box. And when you examine the post-match comments of manager Lee Johnson, it isn’t hard to see why.

Johnson may have done a middling job at Easter Road so far, and certainly hasn’t set the heather alight, but in terms of talking a good game the Englishman is absolutely world class.

Less likely to be keen to keep him around are the refereeing fraternity, who he rarely misses if he feels his side have been wronged by a decision during a game. And on Saturday at McDiarmid Park, he certainly didn’t miss the bungling Craig Napier. Come to think about it, neither did he miss just about every aspect of Scottish football that has clearly been niggling away at him since he arrived here last summer.

READ MORE: Lee Johnson eviscerates Craig Napier and ‘broken’ refereeing system

The straw that broke the camel’s back was Napier’s ludicrous decision to dismiss Hibs midfielder Jimmy Jeggo for what appeared to be an entirely legitimate tackle on St Johnstone’s Connor McLennan.

More accurately, while Johnson described Napier’s performance as the ‘worst he has ever seen’, it was the astonishing refusal of VAR official Chris Graham to ask Napier to take a second look at his clear and obvious error that really got his goat.

As well as Napier and Graham, the entire VAR process, the appeals process, the SFA, the McDiarmid Park pitch, even the volume at which the referee blew his whistle, you name in it, it was in Johnson’s firing line.

Johnson has been accused at times – even by his own support - of using external issues to mask his own failings, turning his ire on referees after a poor result to deflect away from his team’s below-par performances.

That may have been true in the past, and there are indeed very few people talking about the fact his team have now won just one of their last six matches - the derby win over Hearts over last week – with defeats to Celtic, Dundee United, Motherwell and Rangers included in that dismal run.

But this was not a case of obfuscation from Johnson this time around. The error was so blatant, Napier’s overall performance so understandably rage-inducing, that he was more than justified to sound off in the way that he did.

Though, this was no unhinged rant. Johnson delivered his points in a measured way, and in fact, with a disbelieving chuckle as he - like thousands of others shaking their heads as they trooped out of the stadium - struggled to come to terms with what he had just witnessed.

I can’t comment on the volume of Napier’s whistle, but the rest of Johnson’s complaints were sound enough. And the most worrying of all, perhaps, is that he doesn’t think there is any point in appealing against Jeggo’s red card, such is the lack of faith he has in the appeals process.

I spoke to PFA chief executive Fraser Wishart earlier this week following the dismissal of Graeme Shinnie’s appeal for his red card the previous week against Ross County, and more pertinently, after the Aberdeen midfielder had received an extra match on top of his original three-match suspension after the panel deemed the appeal as having ‘no chance of success’.

READ MORE: Why players have lost faith in SFA after Graeme Shinnie ban

It seems the feeling from within the game from both players and managers following that verdict is that the appeals process has now become something of a kangaroo court weighted in favour of referees. The only explanation for retaining the option of increasing suspensions after appeal, many players and managers feel, is not to deter clubs from gaming the system in their favour - as it may have done prior to the existence of fast-track tribunals - but to discourage scrutiny of referees.

If that is the case, and if the addition of the extra game to Shinnie’s suspension was also designed to put clubs off challenging decisions, then you would have to say it is mission accomplished.

Shinnie’s dismissal provoked a debate with as many on either side of the argument over whether he should have been sent off or not as the other. But if a manager doesn’t see the point in appealing a decision as universally viewed to be erroneous as Jeggo’s red card, then the SFA have a huge problem.

There cannot be a situation where there is such a lack of trust between the players, clubs and the game’s governing body, and bridges must be built in the interests not only of bringing those parties closer together, but in the interests of justice.

As Wishart suggested during the week, some simple ways to do that would be to remove the option of an extra game being added to a player’s suspension after a failed appeal, which is no longer needed, and to allow a former player to sit alongside a former referee on the appeals panel.

That way, the players will feel as if their views and experiences in playing the game are being represented, and more injustices may be corrected. The removal of the word ‘frivolous’ from the ruling might help too, with Aberdeen up in arms that their appeal may have been viewed as such, and the SFA having to later clarify publicly in writing that it wasn’t.

This isn’t about a witch hunt against referees, it is about fairness in our game. Johnson was simply articulating very clearly how a great many of his colleagues and players currently feel.

Depressingly, his comments are more likely to attract a touchline ban than inspire any meaningful change. But if he has helped start a conversation around making such alterations to the appeals process, at the very least, then he should be the toast of more than just the fourth estate.