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Accies 2 Livingston 1

Web reporter Martin McConnell..

Betfred League Cup, Group Stage

The Super Seal Stadium

Saturday 30th July 2016 at 3pm.

Hamilton Academical 2 Livingston 1

We secured our place in the knock out stages of the Betfred Cup with a narrow 2-1 win against a pretty decent League 1 Livingston side. Hamilton took the lead after Italian striker Alex D’Acol smashed home his second goal in three days from outside the penalty area. But the lead didn’t last and Livingston scored a fortunate equaliser minutes from the half time break.

If the first half was pretty even, the second half probably swung a little more in Accies direction. They showed touches of class at times but could only get on top in spells, with Livi proving themselves capable of threatening Remi Matthews goal on more than one occasion. But Accies ultimately took the points when Louis Longridge hammered home from an Ali Crawford free kick.

Hamilton boss Martin Canning was forced to make a couple of changes to the side that beat Edinburgh City 4-2 midweek. With newly signed Greek defender Georgios Sarris making his debut in central defence alongside Mikey Devlin, fresh back from serving a one match suspension. The two players making way at the back being Ronan Hughes and Jordan McGregor.
Like many matches in the group stage of the Betfred Cup, the game didn’t seem to have the feel of a full on SPFL game. Creative attempts to move the ball forward by Accies broke down pretty quickly. But Georgios Sarris made an instant impression on the home fans when he pulled off a couple of decent sliding challenges to begin with, and finished his debut with an accomplished performance.

Hamilton threatened on 19 minutes when the ball was played wide to Longridge on the left. He used his pace to great effect, passed a defender and sent a good ball to the back post that Dougie Imrie headed just wide. A few minutes later Accies went ahead after Alex D’Acol latched onto a loose ball and struck spectacularly into the top corner of the net from 22 yards.
The match plodded on without much in the way of chances, that was until Livingston managed to pull themselves level just ahead of half time. Nicky Cadden swung a free kick into the Hamilton penalty area, Sean Crighton rattled the cross bar with a header from 8 yards and the rebound struck Matthews on the back and into the net.

With 10 minutes of the second period behind them, Hamilton were awarded a free kick 20 yards from the Livi goal when Alex D’Acol was pushed to the ground. And in a slight reworking of the free kick that led to Wednesday night’s third goal, Ali Crawford sent the ball over the top and into space on the left. Longridge peeled off, got onto the end of the ball and drove low past Kelly and in at the back post.

Livi had a great chance to pull level for the second time when Liam Watt broke into Accies penalty area from the right. Fortunately a heavy touch by the midfielder allowed Matthews the chance to rush out and save at his feet. He couldn’t gather and the ball rolled out perfectly to Scott Pittman, who used to be in our academy set up, who then sent the ball sailing a foot high of the cross bar.

Hamilton boss Martin Canning said afterwards “I think after losing the first game down in Ayr, then going on to win the next three and finish top of the group I’m obviously happy to qualify and get out of the group, now we have to forget about this for the meantime and focus ourselves on the up and coming league campaign.”

With a difficult first league match against Rangers on the horizon, the Accies boss added “It’s certainly a difficult start for us but it is what it is and every side in the league is a strong team. We’ll need to make sure that we’re organised this week, we’ll prepare properly and go and try to get something from the game on Saturday.”

When asked if Accies needed to up their game for the SPFL opener at Ibrox, Martin said “Yes I think so, today we had a few changes and it ruined the momentum of the game for the team. We took Georgios, Alex and Massimo off. Georgios hasn’t done much, Massimo is behind in his preseason and Alex has a niggle. But we had that planned before the game and knew that we’d need to get them off at certain points in the game to keep them fit, and ensure that we have the strongest team to put on the pitch for next week.”

Martin was impressed by Alex D’Acol’s opener and said “It was a great strike and a bit of quality, it’s something we’ve known he’s had in his game all of last season. Hopefully after getting his first goal against Edinburgh City during the week and with today’s goal he can now hit a wee run. Right foot or left foot he can hit the ball well and he definitely knows where the goal is. He needs to get those wee breaks, but he has got a little bit of a tight groin and that’s why I took him off as a precaution.”

Accies new Greek defender Georgios Sarris said of his Accies debut, “Of course I enjoyed it, it was a big difference and another championship where they play fast and hard with quality and I’m very happy.” Georgios has been delighted with his welcome into the side and added “Everything has been perfect, all the guys have accepted me and welcomed into the team from the first moment I came here and made me feel as if I’ve been with Hamilton for a long time.”

Accies: Matthews, Kurakins, Devlin, Gillespie, Imrie, Docherty, D’Acol (Boyd 77), Crawford, Longridge, Donati (MacKinnon 60), Sarris (McGregor 60). Subs Unused: Woods, Cunningham, Tierney, Hughes.
Goals: D’Acol 21, Longridge 55.
Cautions: Sarris, McGregor.

Livingston: Kelly, Miller, Longridge, Lithgow, Crighton, Byrne (Watt 79), Mullin (Knox 70), Pittman, Mullen (Orr 79), Cadden, Halkett. Subs Unused: Maley, Sinclair, Ogilvie, Reid.
Goals: Crighton 41.
Cautions: Miller.

Referee: Euan Anderson. Assistants: David McGeachie & Brian Templeton.
Attendance: 764.

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