NEIL Lennon hit out at Old Firm referee Kevin Clancy last night for failing to dismiss Jon Flanagan for what he called a “clear elbow” to the face of Scott Brown.

The Northern Irishman felt it was “unacceptable” that the match official opted only to show a yellow card to the Rangers full back when he caught the Celtic captain during the Ibrox side’s 2-0 win in the final Glasgow grudge match of the season, and hinted that the fact that Brown – the victim for two Rangers dismissals in the last Old Firm match – was on the receiving end might have had something to do with it.

Not that the Northern Irishman was using the row to spare his players for a performance which he felt was so “pedestrian” and lacking in “energy and desire” that it looked like they were just “fulfilling the fixture”.

“It’s a red card,” said Lennon. “Again. How the referee has not given that as a red card I don’t know. It’s an elbow into his face.

“Their bench is shouting, ‘It’s him (Brown) again’ but it’s a clear elbow into his face.

“Jon has got his hands up first of all,” Lennon added. “Broony is moving to get away and then he elbows him in the jaw. It’s a straight red card, it’s totally unacceptable and unacceptable for the referee not to give a red card.

“Now I’m not distracting away from the rest of the game where we were second best.

“But the laws of the game are it’s a red card. You can dress it up anyway you want. You elbow somebody in the face, you’re off. So they’ve got away with one there.”

With the champions second best for almost the entirety of the game, Lennon admitted his side hadn’t shown enough quality or desire for a match of this magnitude. All he could offer in their defence was the fact that they so often had shown precisely those qualities in even more “meaningful” matches than this.

While he said he hoped it wouldn’t be counted against him in the final reckoning when it comes to whether he is allowed to stay on as the club’s next permanent manager, it had crystallised the idea in his head that the club requires rebuilding during the summer window.

“The performance was poor,” he said. “Very poor. We lacked energy and desire. And lacked quality. The hungrier team won today and that’s the biggest criticism I can lay at the players’ feet.

“We looked flat and like we were just fulfilling the fixture today and that’s obviously not good enough.

“There’s a rebuilding job here, there’s no question of that. And I’ve known that from day one.

“I think the lack of depth in the squad has been apparent for quite a while now.

“Again it manifested itself today with a real lack of quality, so we’ve known that for quite a while.

“We’ve got a cup final to look forward to. Obviously we’re disappointed with the performance today but we know what’s at stake in the next couple of weeks.

“It’s very important we don’t let anything get in the way from that.

“But I had to tell the players, whether I’m here or not next year, that performance is just not good enough for a derby.

“From minute one when we lose the ball when we’ve got possession to players not being in the right positions for a defensive set play standing on the outside looking in we were just sort of pedestrian.

“We were lacking physicality and lacking real desire you require for games of this magnitude. You can’t dress it up. It was a poor performance from us.”

“I’ve no idea [if this will impact my hopes of getting the job], I wouldn’t have thought so. We have come through a lot of big games recently, meaningful games.

“I’m not saying this isn’t meaningful, but quarter-finals, semi-finals, league games.

We got the title won last season and have a cup final to look forward to. Then maybe I will know after that.”

That Scottish Cup final date with Hearts at Hampden on May 25 is looking trickier as the hours pass. While the club are hopeful of having James Forrest fit after a calf strain for the showpiece, the PFA Scotland player of the year joins a list of injury doubts which includes Kieran Tierney and Mikael Lustig, the latter of whom was unable to complete the match with a hamstring problem.

“Jamesy had a calf strain,” said Lennon. “He had a scan on Tuesday, so he should be okay for the final. Kieran is just a case of managing through. He wouldn’t have been fit today to play so we didn’t want to take any chances with that either. With Mikael, it is the hamstring he pulled last week so, again, we will have to wait and see what the damage is.”