THE great irony as referees have looked to punish players for following through in their tackles recently, is that the stringent measures they have adopted may end up causing an injury, rather than preventing one.

That is the view of Lewis Stevenson, one of the Hibs players who watched on in disbelief as his teammate Jimmy Jeggo was dismissed by referee Craig Napier for a tackle on St Johnstone’s Connor McLennan in Saturday’s 1-1 draw at McDiarmid Park.

Stevenson is 35 now, and isn’t necessarily against many of the developments in protecting players he has seen as the game has evolved over his long career. But the decisions he has seen over recent weeks from referees have left him confused as to how exactly he is supposed to tackle his opponents.

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And as players look to unnaturally mitigate their momentum in tackles, he thinks that confusion may lead to injuries.

“At the time, I honestly thought it was a free kick to us,” Stevenson said.

“Jimmy touched the ball and the guy has kicked his foot. Jeggo’s foot pointed down and you can’t tackle like that on the ground all the time or you’ll dislocate your knee. Especially on a dry pitch like that, you need a wee bit of air time.

“If he had his studs up, then fair enough. But it’s tough and he’s definitely not that type of player.

“You almost have to dangle your leg, which you never would before. You were told to protect yourself and go in hard. Now you can’t. I can’t remember the last time I made a tackle!

“You need to stay on your feet, but it’s a different technique. If you’ve been playing football for 20 years, it’s hard to change the way you tackle now.

“When I first started, there were tackles flying in all the time. Sometimes you need to lift your leg a wee bit off the ground or you’ll give yourself a serious injury with the pitches or your studs could get caught in the ground.

“Jimmy has never went in to hurt anyone at all. It’s a tough one for him. Obviously with (Graeme) Shinnie’s appeal, I’m sure Hibs will almost be scared to appeal.”

As well as Jeggo’s dismissal, the match in Perth also produced another jarring moment that will live long in the memory in the shape of a rare Stevenson goal, his first for almost five years. And what a beauty it was.

Saints had dominated the opening 25 minutes and were deservedly ahead through Stevie May’s overhead kick, even if David Marshall’s excellent overall performance was blotted as he allowed that rather tame effort to squirm through his grasp and into the net.

There was nothing his opposite number Remi Matthews could have done about Stevenson’s leveller though, the full-back taking one touch to control Elie Youann’s pass and quickly despatching the ball into the bottom corner of the net from the edge of the box.

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“It was a decent goal,” he said. “Any goal is decent, but this was a bit unexpected.

“The gaffer said at half-time he had a feeling I was going to score. I’m glad he did – because I didn’t! I’m glad he didn’t tell me before the game because I probably wouldn’t have been anywhere near the box.

“It was a decent touch and finish. It was an important part of the game as we weren’t playing well at the time. But after that, we got a decent foothold and were probably the better team until the sending off.”

St Johnstone would certainly argue that point. For Andy Considine, it was yet another frustrating afternoon on his own patch, where Saints didn’t perhaps get full reward for their overall showing.

Things are looking up though under interim boss Steven MacLean, he hopes, after a hugely difficult week at the club following the departure of Callum Davidson.

“Our home form needs to improve,” Considine said.

“Whatever the fixtures we get at home [after the split], we need to get positive result from them.

“If we show a performance like that, I don’t think that will be a problem.

“It’s been a tough week obviously for us all. Callum brought me to this club, he’s been magnificent for this club. He’s been extremely successful.

“But we’ve worked really hard all week on the training pitch and we felt that showed in the game.

“There was loads of energy, the boys were bang on it, just that final little bit putting the ball in the back of the net.

“Our heads are a bit low but it’s a positive performance at home when we felt Hibs were hanging on a bit.

“It was good.”