Web reporter Martin McConnell…
The Betfred League Cup, Group Stage
The Super Seal Stadium at New Douglas Park, Hamilton
Saturday 23rd July 2016 – 3pm
Hamilton Academical 3 St. Mirren 0
What a difference a week makes, as our league cup campaign got off the ground in some style with a well-deserved win against Alex Rae’s St. Mirren side. As well as being happy with the manner of the victory, Hamilton fans took heart for the season ahead after watching some impressive performances from new boys Massimo Donati, Jordan McGregor, Remi Matthews and Jack Breslin.
But the Man of the Match performance went to Italian Donati for his masterful performance in front of the Hamilton back four, and of course his spectacular third goal. Accies began well and looked much sharper than they did in the 2-1 defeat to Ayr United, and went ahead when Ali Crawford struck the back of the net from a Grant Gillespie cross.
Although the Hamilton defence looked solid and we always looked like the team more likely to add to the tally, St. Mirren did manage to create chances on the odd occasion. Accies did add to that first half goal when Dougie Imrie struck home from 15 yards, five minutes after the restart. Then almost 20 minutes later Massimo sealed the victory with a strike from outside the Buddies penalty area.
Accies passing looked crisp from the off as they stroked the ball about nicely across the back, before moving the ball forward quickly and tellingly. But it was Dougie Imrie that unleashed the first shot on target from the left hand side of the penalty area, but Jamie Langfield saved comfortably. Up at the other end, David Clarkson’s attempted overhead kick didn’t give Matthews much trouble.
Hamilton broke the deadlock after Ali Crawford played the ball wide for Grant Gillespie out on the right. His perfectly struck ball was sent low across the six yard box as Crawford’s nicely timed run allowed him to hammer the ball home. Minutes later MacKinnon headed across goal from an Imrie corner to the back post, allowing Mikey Devlin to test the keeper with a header at the near post.
As the first half was closing to an end, Grant Gillespie slipped as he drove his shot high of the cross bar from 25 yards. Then with the last of the action the ball was played through the St. Mirren back line. Alex D’Acol received the ball, turned beating the defender for pace and watched as his low driven shot was stopped by the outstretched foot of the keeper.
Five minutes into the second half and Dougie Imrie almost had his first goal of the season after sliding to get on the end of a Louis Longridge cross from the left. But just as it seemed that 2-0 was a certainty, a defender slid in and cleared. But within seconds of the near miss the Accies midfielder did get his first of the season when his 15 yard strike flew into the back of the net from a Scott McMann cross.
Ali Crawford was unfortunate not to score his second when Jamie Langfield saved brilliantly from his 8 yard effort. But he had a second bite at the cherry when the ball came back out toward him and he headed beyond the reach of the St. Mirren keeper, only to watch as Jack Baird got back to clear from in front of the goal line.
Massimo Donati then topped his Accies debut with a stunning goal from outside the St. Mirren penalty area, after an Ali Crawford shot was blocked and sailed out in the direction of the Italian midfielder. The crowd anticipated a 22 yard rocket on the away goal, but Donati showed more than a touch of class when he calmly placed the ball to the keeper’s right hand side and directly into the net!
St. Mirren had to wait until five minutes from the time to see their side’s best chance of a goal thwarted by Remi Matthews. When the talented St. Mirren youngster Lewis Morgan was released on a run toward the Hamilton goal from a long ball forward. His touch let him down in the end when the ball ran away from him and allowed the Accies keeper to rush out and save bravely at his feet.
When reminded that Accies lost 2-1 and that he himself had been shown red the last time Donati played at NDP, Martin Canning said, “Yes, I thought he was excellent in the game and I thought as a team we played well but as an individual, for his first game I thought he was excellent. I think that his goal just topped it all off with that bit of quality in his finish, and I think that his performance had a positive impact on the team. I think that we played through him, but when you look at it overall there was quality from Ali Crawford in there, Darian MacKinnon, Dougie and Louis off the side and they all played well today.”
And on the news that Kayseri Erciyesspor defender Georgios Sarris was poised to sign for the club, he said, “He is a centre back and we actually looked at him last year but he got a big offer to go and play in Turkey. This year he got another offer to stay in Turkey but decided to come over and it’s a good signing for us to get in. He is a big aggressive centre back which is something we’re looking for, so hopefully he can come in and do well for us.” And he added, “Yes he has been working and we’ll see him on Monday morning and get him training and see how he goes throughout the course of the week, with the view to get him involved in the game a week from today.”
In comparing the performance to last week’s defeat at Somerset Park, “I said that to the boys before the game, that this is where the season starts for us. It was only our second 90 minutes of football against Ayr and we’re still at that stage of doing fitness work and getting ourselves up to speed. The most important thing for us now is still getting ready for the league. But these are still competitive games and we’ve got to take them seriously and treat them in a proper manner. Today the boys were excellent to a man and I thought that they worked hard all over the pitch. When we had the ball they were brave to go and play and that was pleasing for me.”
Accies: Matthews, Devlin, Gillespie, Imrie, D’Acol (Redmond 63), Crawford, Longridge, MacKinnon (Docherty 63), Donati, McMann, McGregor (Breslin 80). Subs Unused: Martin, S Boyd, Tierney, Hughes.
Goals: Crawford 12, Imrie 50, Donati 69.
St. Mirren: Langfield, Naismith, Irvine, Webster, Clarkson (McAllister 79), Sutton (Shankland 53), Mallan, C Gallagher (Walsh 53), Hutton, Baird, Morgan. Subs Unused: S Gallagher, Gordon, Stewart, O’Keefe.
Referee: Don Robertson. Assistants: Michael Banks & David Dunne.