Our media reporter Mark Gillespie with details of Saturday’s win v Hearts
Foys Stadium, Hamilton
Saturday 21stDecember 2019, at 3pm
Hamilton Academical 2 Heart of Midlothian 1
Second half goals from Mickel Miller and Will Collar brought three very welcome points to lift us off the foot of the table this side of Christmas. A late Bozanic goal made Brian Rice’s men work to see the game out but the Accies boss believes his young side were worthy winners over the 90 minutes.
“I thought we thoroughly deserved to win the match. Our second half performance was outstanding, as was the quality of the two goals I’m delighted for my lads, for everything they’ve been through these last few weeks, but still grinding out performances.”, he says.
“Mickel Miller’s goal today sums up his performance I put him up front in the second half and he had a wee bit more space to run into. In the last six weeks he’s got fitter and stronger, and is playing with more confidence. But we win and lose as a team. Everyone has to contribute, and everyone did.”
As so often the case this season, Accies looked a stronger outfit as the game wore on. The visitors had their moments early on, but failed to cash in. Accies changed the shape of the side and reaped the rewards in the second half, with Miller’s third of the season and Collar’s first goal for the club.
There were two changes from Pittodrie last weekend, with Cunningham and Hunt dropping to the bench. Alex Gogic returned from suspension and Steve Davies started, as part of an attacking looking front three.
Hearts had made all of six changes in midweek and went for another overhaul against Accies. This time new manager Daniel Stendel made five switches with White, Clare, Whelan, Naismith and Ikpeazu in his starting eleven.
The visitors were keen to make an immediate impact and pressed high early on. They were on top of Accies in their own half, an early chance falling to Michael Smith, who fizzing a long-range effort just over on four minutes.
Accies defended resolutely and were almost ahead with a first venture forward on 18 minutes. Neat footwork from Miller set up McGowan on the right, whose near post cross was met Oakley, heading just wide of Pereira’s post
Oakley tested the Hearts ‘keeper’s handling four minutes later, on the end of a Collar knock on volley for goal, but Pereira clung on at the second attempt.
Hearts probably shaded things for the rest of the opening 45, as they began to win the midfield battles. We were being denied space in our own half and pinned back. Aaron Hickey almost capitalised on a loose ball, firing just wide of Southwood’s far post from the edge of the box on 31 minutes.
The visitors were almost in front three minutes later, with Ikpeazu nicking the ball from Accies out wide. MacLean helped the cross ontoNaismith, but the Scotland striker couldn’t control it and volleyed over the bar.
Half time was coming at the right time as we lived dangerously in the closing first half seconds. Halkett struck the bar as Accies struggled to clear from a set piece, with Ikpeazu blasting the rebound high and wide.
Hearts would live to regret their misses. Ikpeazu had another effort blocked on the line a minute after the restart. And Accies’ made them pay on 63 minutes. It was a fine flowing move, involving Lewis Smith, Scott Martin and Oakley who picked out Miller on the edge of the box. He curled right footed from the edge of the box, high past Pereira.
With the goal we gained in confidence, and Miller turned provider for the second on 72 minutes His cross from the left found Collar at the far post, and the Heart ‘keeper couldn’t keep his low effort from rolling into his near corner.
But it was never to be as straightforward as that, Hearts pulling one back on 81 minutes as sub Bozanic bulleted a close-range header home from Whelan’s corner. It set up a tense finish, as the visitors threw numbers forward to no avail. They drop to the foot of the table as Accies now look to take the feelgood factor into the two remaining festive fixtures.
Accies: Southwood, McGowan (c), McMann, Collar (Hunt, 90+2), Davies (L Smith, 62), Oakley (Easton, 82), Miller, Gogic, Martin, Stubbs, Hamilton; Subs Unused: Fon Williams, Cunningham, Winter, Moyo
Bookings: McGowan, 76, Mickel Miller 79, Brian Easton 90+1
Goals: Miller, 63, Collar, 72
Hearts: Pereira, Smith, White (Bozanic, 61), Clare, Whelan, Naismith (Mulraney,46), MacLean, Ikpeazu, Damour, Halkett, Hickey; Subs Unused: Zlamal,Wighton, Dikamona, Henderson, Meshino
Bookings: MacLean, 21, Smith, 57, Halkett, 70, Whelan, 90+4
Referee: David Munro; Assistants: Alan Mulvanny and Stuart Stevenson; 4thOfficial: Mike Roncone