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Hamilton Academical v Cove Rangers cinch League 1 Saturday 13th January 20243pm at New Douglas Park 

Hamilton Accies 2 Cove Rangers 0

Accies web reporter Louise Davidson reports from NDP…

Our first match of 2024 took place on Saturday we took on Cove Rangers aiming to gain three points and close the gap between Falkirk at the top of the table. Boss John Rankin made two changes to the starting XI from our last game against  Edinburgh City, with Newbury (now on loan at Kelty) and Hewitt making way for Owens (returning from a loan spell at Kelty) and debutant Ben Williamson.

Rankin’s change allowed Ben Williamson to make his debut for us since signing at the start of January. A late substitution in the 88th minute also saw new signing Makenzie Kirk make his debut.

The first half proved to be a relatively quiet start to the game with neither team being able to fully find their flow. Despite this we still managed to lead at the break.

With only 7 minutes on the clock, we were able to get back to our scoring ways after a stray pass from the Cove defence allowed Lewis Smith to quickly press his man, resulting in the ball ricocheting off him and into the path of O’Hara. O’Hara began his rampage towards goal with no defender in sight to pressure him, gifting him the opportunity to slot the ball into the bottom corner past keeper Suman. This finish gave O’Hara his 11th goal of the season. 1-0.

In the 10th minute, Smith thought he was going to join the scoring action after a heavy touch from a Cove defender allowed him to steam towards goal, but he took the ball too wide in the box and struck the side netting.

We had another few chances to rack up the score, but we were unable to take advantage of these opportunities. It also proved to be a relatively quiet first half for Smith in our goal. 

The second half did not disappoint with plenty of action for both sets of fans to become vocal about.

The 50th minute saw Cove’s ex Accie Mikey Doyle booked for a challenge on the by-line. This gave Smith the opportunity to deliver a good free kick to aim to put us even further ahead. Smith attempted a very cheeky effort to lob the keeper. Suman was on alert though tipping it over the bar preventing it edging into the top left corner.

Just 4 minutes later we were reduced to 10 men, after a great debut from Williamson turned sour when he was dismissed by referee Hardie for a challenge on Connell in the middle of the park.

We didn’t let this set us back and, slightly against the run of play, we found a second goal in the 70th minute when O’Hara’s cross found Winter whose shot was parried out unconvincingly into the middle of the box, allowing on hand Barjonas to tap the ball into an empty net, surely securing us all three points. 2-0.

The afternoon went from bad to worse for Cove after Doyle was shown a second yellow card for handling the ball. Cove were now also reduced to 10 men for the remaining 15 minutes.

After gaining three massive points in our title race, we must now focus on next week’s rearranged fixture with Stirling as we look to build on our performance and keep another clean sheet.

Boss Rankin discussed his thoughts on a much-needed victory against Cove: “I think we could have scored another goal in the first half to give us a bit of a cushion when we went down to ten men. I thought we were poor in the first half. I actually think it was the poorest first half performance this season.”

Rankin also made a special mention to the fans for their great support during the game: “When we went 1-0 up and were down to ten men the support the crowd gave us in the second half was needed and we are thankful for that. They pushed us on and when they are helping us like that then we are all on the same page.”

Rankin also discussed Ben Williamson’s debut performance: “That’s certainly a debut isn’t it. Ben is a big competitor in the middle of the pitch and that’s his game. I thought he did very well, he has great running ability and is a very fit boy. I thought today his performance (until he was sent off) was really competitive and he did exactly as we asked of him.” 

Accies: J Smith (GK), Longridge, Barjonas (Redfern 88 ), Henderson (Winter 58), O’Hara (Kirk 88 ), Smith (Hewitt 58 ), MacDonald, McGowan, Tumilty (Hendrie 90+1), Owens, Williamson .

Unused Subs: Lane (GK), Zanatta, McGlynn, Tait

Cove: Suman (GK), Doyle, Scully, Niang, Yule, Burrell, Connell, Darge, Kerr, Gallagher (Williamson 62), Reynolds.

Unused Subs: Robertson (GK), Jones, Gillingham, Stewart.

Referee- Ross Hardie / AR1- Drew Kirkland/ AR2- Colin McAlpine

1,436 (75 away)

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