MOTHERWELL’S players have claimed referee Craig Thomson asked Scott Sinclair if he dived for Celtic’s crucial penalty in yesterday's Betfred Cup final – after he’d already awarded it.

The Parkhead club were a goal to the good whenever Sinclair went tumbling to the turf under a challenge from Cedric Kipre on the hour. Thomson immediately pointed to the spot and flashed a red card in the direction of the despairing Frenchman as countryman Moussa Dembele made it 2-0 seconds later.

It left Motherwell chasing shadows under the Hampden floodlights when prior to the call on the hour Stephen Robinson’s men were threatening at the other end. Understandably frustrations were high among the dejected Fir Park squad who spoke afterwards, and centre-half Peter Hartley and goalkeeper Trevor Carson both told how Thomson had questioned Sinclair about his dive after the event.

Read more: Stephen Robinson: Ref's decisions ended Motherwell's hopes of beating Celtic - and there was no contact​

Hartley said: “We watched it five or six times in the dressing room afterwards and Cedric doesn’t touch him.

“I don’t want to cane the ref as he has a job to do but he has made the wrong decision. He has actually asked Sinclair if he dived or not after giving the penalty. It is very bizarre for a referee to say something like that.

“I thought we were still in the game and we still would have been with 11 men on the pitch.”

Carson added: “I said to Scott did you dive and he said ‘no I was tucked’. I think the referee has even asked Sinclair has he dived which is a bit strange. It is just incredible.

“It is incredible the referee spoke to him. I asked Scott himself because I was convinced he had dived. There is nothing in it but I’m not going to call Scott a cheat. Big Cedric is disappointed because he keeps himself to himself. He is devastated because he was outstanding up until then.”

Read more: Brendan Rodgers: Cup final ref got the penalty decision spot on - Celtic winger Scott Sinclair WAS impeded​

While that call will rightly rankle with the Motherwell players as well as manager Robinson, frustration will fester even more given forward Louis Moult was denied what he believed was a stonewall penalty just moments before Kipre was ordered off as Kieran Tierney clipped him in the box.

Moult, who was denied at 1-0 with a stunning save from Craig Gordon to his header and in injury time by the post, was dejected as he spoke afterwards and said: “I feel a bit hard done by. There were big decisions on the big day. I feel I should have got a penalty moments before they got their penalty. But that’s football. We have to get on with it and I understand the referee has a very difficult job. But I still feel a little bit hard done by.

“I think he initially tries to pull me back. He doesn’t manage to pull me back and then he clips my heels. Whether he means to clip my heels or not, I don’t know. But he has clipped my heels. Why would I go down? I’ve got a tap-in. For me, it is a penalty so it is a hard won to take.”

Motherwell must now gather themselves to face Celtic once again. The Betfred Cup winners come to Fir Park on Wednesday, and Moult added: “We are fired up regardless, whether it is this game, Wednesday or Saturday. That’s what we have done well this season.

Read more: Neil Cameron: Celtic are invincible and untouchable - but Motherwell are right to feel hard done by

“We can’t let it affect us. If you had said to us that we would be in a final and the top six this season, from where we were last season, we definitely have taken that.

"The last half hour was tough. Very tough. It felt like we were down to ten men for a very long time. But the positive we will take is that we didn’t let our heads drop. You could see every one of us giving everything until the final whistle.

"Maybe last season we would have conceded a few more goals and got pumped. But that doesn’t happen to us this season. Spirits are high and the passion from the lads is brilliant. We have Celtic again on Wednesday and I don’t mind who we play."