Accies suffered a narrow 0-1 defeat in their first home match of the Cinch Championship campaign. Our reporter David Robson provided this account of the match
Brian Rice made five changes in his starting 11 from the 4-4 draw against Raith Rovers the previous week. Miko Virtanen and Josh Mullin both made their debuts and impressed despite the loss.
Virtanen played the full 90 minutes and Mullin came on as an impact sub in the second half.
Hamilton started strong and on the front foot forcing Morton into drawing early fouls and they gifted the home side a couple of free-kicks in dangerous areas in the opening few minutes but Jamie Hamilton and David Templeton’s efforts failed to test Jack Hamilton in the Morton goal.
Lewis Smith had the first real chance to open the scoring in the 13th minute after he used his skill to dance past Lewis Strapp and cut into the middle to wrap his left foot around a shot but it curled over the bar. It was the first time Smith had found some space with the ball at his feet and proved that he could clearly be a threat against the Morton defence.
Andy Ryan, who made his first start for Hamilton since 2014, nearly returned in style when he fired a rocket strike from 20 yards on the 23rd minute but his shot was wonderfully tipped over the bar by Hamilton for a corner.
Morton weren’t out of danger just yet as Jack Hamilton was called into action once again, this time making a double save on the line when Jamie Hamilton and Shaun Want both pounced on their chances from the corner.
Accies continued to control possession and looked the stronger team from front to back. They were creating a number of chances but were unable to get that crucial goal.
Morton’s first chance came on the 27th minute when Darren Hynes broke dwon right flank and crossed to Robbie Muirhead, but Ryan Fulton was there to deny the striker’s header on goal.
Morton started to have a period of possession in the last 15 minutes of the half and managed to snatch the lead in the 39th minute after a pass broke through the Hamilton defence and fell to Gozi Ugwu who used his strength to hold off the defenders and fired it past Fulton in goals.
HALF-TIME ACCIES 0 – 1 MORTON
The second half started cagey with Morton aiming to stay strong and disciplined in holding their clean sheet and Hamilton pushing forward and trying to force their way through the well-structured away defence.
Accies did have an opportunity seconds after the restart as David Templeton found some space on the edge of the box, and tried to place the shot in the bottom right-hand corner of the net but there was slightly too much on it and it drifted wide of the post.
Hamilton looked like they found their rhythm and were controlling possession. Andy Ryan made a darting run down the right flank on the 53rd minute and managed to create space at the edge of the box for a cross, which beat Hamilton in goals but it was unfortunately slightly too heavy for Smith to get his head onto as well.
Hamilton’s best passage of play came on the 57th minute and Smith was involved yet again. The 21-year-old linked up cleverly with Templeton on the edge of the box with a quick one-two and then played a first-time pass through the defence to Ryan who was free and open. Ryan fired a shot that deflected off Jack Hamilton in goals to bounce off the bar and was then cleared to safety. It was exactly the sort of play that Accies were needing though and showed the quality of their play when they get going.
Lewis Smith then made way for the debutant Josh Mullin on the 58th minute.
10 minutes later another chance fell to Accies as a corner was whipped in on the 68th minute which met the head of Stanger at the back post – who looked to add to his last few weeks at the Olympics with his first goal for Hamilton – but there were three bodies on the line in the Morton goal to make it impossible for the 20-year-old to find the net.
Marley Redfern came on for Stanger a couple of minutes later in the 70th minute.
Accies had a shout for a penalty on 75 minutes as Ryan made a great run through the middle and seemed to get the better of the Morton backline before bundling down in the box before he had the chance of a shot. Referee Greg Aitken deemed there to be nothing in it and waved play to continue though.
Accies had the opportunity of a ‘last throw of the dice’ when Cameron Blues was sent off for a second yellow and the visitors went down to 10-men with the final few minutes to play.
Hamilton started to throw everything at it and had a couple of chances through a Scott McMann shot which was saved and Want having a header fly wayward over the bar in the dying moments but they weren’t to be for the home side.
Promising debuts from Virtanen and Mullin whilst Templeton and Ryan lasted the full 90 minutes after coming back from injury. Accies are sitting fifth in the league and come up against Kilmarnock in their next game in a fortnight.
FULL-TIME ACCIES 0 – 1 MORTON
Ref: Greg Aitken; Assistants: Ross Macleod, George King
Accies – Fulton, Virtanen, McMann, Hamilton, MacDonald, Ryan, Templeton, L Smith (Mullin 58′), Want (c), Spence, Stanger (Redfern 69′). Subs unused: Hilton, Stirling, Easton, Mimnaugh, McGowan
Morton – Hamilton, Ledger, Strapp, Jacobs, Oliver, Blues, Muirhead (Lyon 71′), Ugwu, Hynes, McGregor (Russell 62′), Lithgow. Subs unused: McGratten, Garrity, Wylie, Stafford, King