NEIL Lennon, who was sent off for celebrating Hibernian’s injury-time equaliser against Rangers on the Easter Road pitch yesterday, last night appealed to the SFA not to punish him due to the “sectarian” abuse he had been subjected to.

Lennon was given a five game ban by Scottish football’s governing body back in March for protesting about a penalty decision referee Kevin Clancy gave during his side’s 2-2 draw with Kilmarnock at Rugby Park.

But two of those matches were suspended on the understanding that he did not offend again this year - so he is facing further disciplinary action after being ordered up the tunnel by fourth official Bobby Madden near the end of the extraordinary 5-5 draw in the capital.

However, the former Celtic player and manager had been called a “Fenian b******” by the Rangers supporters during the game he is hoping the SFA show leniency because of the provocation he received.

“I should not get a ban for that,” he said. “I was nowhere near them. I was just letting them know how pleased I was to get the equaliser.

“They make it personal don’t they? You all hear it. They are singing sectarian songs at me. It’s just a little bit of ‘have some of that’. It was worth it! Trust me. Bobby (Madden) was fine about it.

“It was harmless was it not? I think the sending off is enough and I don’t think I should get further punishment for that. I was nowhere near them, I was about 50 yards away when I stopped. Just as well! But it was worth it, I enjoyed the moment. It was a big jumbo jet there!”

Lennon had threatened to quit after Hibs were beaten 2-1 by their city rivals Hearts at Tynecastle on Wednesday night because he felt the Easter Road board weren’t prepared to “match his ambition”.

But the Northern Irishman, whose team has topped their best ever points tally in the top flight, admitted he had reconsidered his position since and was content to remain.

“There has been speculation, but I caused the speculation,” he said. “I put the board under unnecessary scrutiny. There is no issue with the board.

“The board have given me all the backing they can do. What I said the other night had noth-ing to do with the board. They even had surplus funds for me in January if I had wanted them. We didn’t use them because we were happy with what we had.

“There is a reality because I have never gone in at any club or to any chief executive banging their door down and saying: ‘Give me, give me, give me or I am going!’ I don’t do that. I spit the dummy out when we lose, but when I am working with board members and chief executives I understand the reality of where we are. I have had a think about it and I am no longer considering it.”

Meanwhile, Jimmy Nicholl, the Rangers interim manager who confirmed that he will now leave the Glasgow club, has expressed confidence that Steven Gerrard, who will take charge at Ibrox on June 1, will keep many of the squad after witnessing their fightback at Easter Road yesterday.

“They have shown a bit of character and ability,” he said. “The new manager will have seen something in some of the players today.

Asked about his own position, Nicholl said: “I couldn’t turn down the opportunity, but that will be it.”