Web reporter Martin McConnell’s take on the game at the weekend
Tynecastle Stadium, Edinburgh
Saturday 10th September 2016 at 3pm
Hearts 3 Hamilton Academical 1
Hearts took all three points thanks to a Jamie Walker brace and an injury time Sam Nicholson strike, despite Hamilton opening the scoring early on in the second half. We defended resolutely throughout the first half and thwarted chance after chance by Hearts. Callum Paterson’s surging runs down the right proving particularly difficult to deal with, but we managed to hold on.
Against the run of play, Ali Crawford stunned the Tynecastle crowd with a volley into the corner of the Hearts goal. After a shaky spell, Hearts got their act together and Walker scored first with his head, then controversially from the penalty spot. Then as Hamilton chased a late equaliser, the sucker punch and third came from substitute Sam Nicholson three minutes into injury time.
Player / Manager Martin Canning made two changes to the side that beat Ross County 1-0 at the SuperSeal Stadium. In for the injured Mikey Devlin and making his first start for Accies was Dan Seaborne, and in midfield Ali Crawford came in for Gramoz Kurtaj. The Jambos made a single change to the XI that beat Partick Thistle 2-1 at Firhill, with Jamie Walker replacing Sam Nicholson.
After an end to end opening, Dan Seaborne had the first attempt on goal when he headed wide from an Ali Crawford corner kick. Hearts soon had a decent chance of their own when Sammon made an interception inside the Accies half. The ball was rolled wide for Walker to test Remi Matthews with a low shot from 12 yards, but the Accies stopper got down to save comfortably.
Sammon almost put Hearts ahead on the quarter hour when the ball was played through to the Hearts midfielder on the edge of the Hamilton 18-yard line. And, but for a last ditch challenge by Georgios Sarris, it would have been a goal rather than the corner kick it was. The danger wasn’t over as Callum Paterson raced in and headed the ball a foot high of the Hamilton cross bar.
After 18 minutes Seaborne was replaced by Shaun Want after taking a bit off a knock. Shaun, 19, who has been with us since age 10, came on for his debut. Hearts were putting the Accies defence under quite a bit of pressure, but the defence held up well. The ball was headed clear as Paterson geared up for a scissor kick at the back post, then for a second time he headed just over. Tony Watt slammed a shot into the side netting, then had a shot on goal saved.
On 37 minutes a Hearts ball forward caught the Hamilton backline sleeping, leaving Sammon one on one with Matthews. The Accies keeper raced off his line and maybe just did enough to put Sammon off, as he put the ball wide of the post from 10 yards out. Paterson followed this with a 20-yard strike that soared over the Accies goal, and Faycal Rherras a 30 yarder wide of the post.
Then, from seemingly nowhere, with four minutes of the second half played, Hearts rued their missed attempts on goal when Ali Crawford put Accies ahead. A Dougie Imrie ball inside to Darian MacKinnon on the edge of the D, was then sent wide to Grant Gillespie. The ball was crossed in front of goal and sat up nicely for Ali Crawford to volley into the net from eight yards.
Hearts continued to push forward but they lacked the penetration that Paterson had added to their first half attacks. Crawford curled a left foot shot just wide of the back post after getting onto the end of a Massimo Donati dink over the top. Jamie Walker answered this with 25 yard shot that beat Mathews but fortunately hammered off the post.
Instead of spurring the home side on, Hearts seemed to fall apart as the fans bemoaned every minor mistake made. But that all changed when the ball was whipped into the Accies penalty area by Paterson, for Walker to head home from 10 yards. Hearts wound the screw and two goal line clearances kept Accies on level terms, the first from Sarris, the second a magnificent Matthews save.
The pressure mounted and Hearts forced a spot kick when Nicholson controversially went down under a Shaun Want challenge. The player appeared to have already lost his footing. The referee pointed to the spot and the reaction from the Hamilton players said it all, leaving no one in any doubt on how they felt about the decision. Walker stepped up and confidently placed the ball beyond the reach of Remi Matthews.
Hamilton searched for an equaliser as the clock ran down, increasingly leaving the back exposed as they pushed forward with everything available to them. Then with the last action of the match, Robbie Muirhead crossed deep toward the back post. Nicholson skillfully gathered, and after taking a touch slammed home at the back post.
Accies manager Martin Canning said of the penalty given against his side, “I don’t think it was, I just watched it back there and it doesn’t look like a penalty. It looks like Shaun’s just slid in and afterwards the boy has said to Shaun and the referee, that he was off balance and the only thing he could do was go down. It’s just frustrating when that costs you the game, because at that point it’s still 1-1 with all to play for. It goes 2-1 then becomes a big task for us to try and get a second goal. I’m disappointed as I thought the boys put so much effort in and to get done by a decision if it’s not a penalty is poor.”
Darian MacKinnon commented, “I thought we played really well, they came into it more in the second half but I thought a draw may have been a fair result.” And on the penalty, “It was sad. I can’t say too much but I was talking to Sam after the decision and he said Shaun hasn’t touched him. I don’t want to say that he has dived or that he has cheated, he might have been off balance or something but we’ll see it back and see what happened, but I think we’ve been undone by one there.”
Hearts: Hamilton, Paterson, Rherras, Rossi, Kitchen, Walker, Djoum (Nicholson 61), Souttar, Cowie, Sammon (Johnsen 61), Watt (Muirhead 70). Subs Unused: Ozturk, Buaben, Noring, Smith.
Goals: Walker 69, 81 pen, Nicholson 90+3.
Cautions: Watt, Paterson, Rossi.
Accies: Matthews, Seaborne (Want 18 ), Gillespie, Imrie, Docherty (Redmond 75), D’Acol (Bingham 54), Crawford, MacKinnon, Donati, Lyon, Sarris. Subs Unused: Thomson, Kurtaj, Longridge, Brophy.
Goals: Crawford 49.
Cautions: Crawford, Imrie, Want.
Referee: Craig Thomson. Assistants: Graham Chambers & Brian Templeton. 4thOfficial: Andrew Dallas.