McDiarmid Park, Perth,
Saturday 12th September 2015.
St. Johnstone 4 Hamilton Accies 1
We travelled north to face a Saints team that have proved incredibly difficult to beat at McDiarmid Park in recent seasons, and as it turned out, Saturday’s match wouldn’t prove to be an exception. Accies started the match well and looked to be getting the best of the exchanges when St. Johnstone stunned Hamilton with three first half goals. The second half started no better when Saints got an early fourth that all but decided the outcome of the match, however Accies heads hadn’t gone down and we found another gear to our game and got one back from a Lucas Tagliapietra header after a much improved second half performance.
With only two minutes on the clock Ali Crawford touched the ball through the Saints backline for Carlton Morris. Just has he was about to bring the ball under control for an eight yard strike, ex Accie Brian Easton brought him down in what appeared like a stonewall penalty, the assistant referee raised his flag immediately but was over ruled by referee Andy Dallas.
Hamilton started to edge the play but St. Johnstone put the Accies defence under some pressure when the ball was chipped over the heads of the Hamilton defence for Graham Cummins to chase down, he brought the ball under control and ran in on the Accies goal with only the keeper to beat, fortunately McGovern was up to the task and quickly made his way out to block the Cummins attempt.
Accies were camped out in front of the Saints penalty area, half the team must have been involved in the ten to eleven pass sequence before MacKinnon found some room and shot wide of the upright from 15 yards. Within a minute, we were on the attack once more, the ball was played into the St. Johnstone penalty area for Morris, and with his back to the ball he took a touch and back heeled the ball out to Crawford, Ali ran in and volleyed over the crossbar from 20 yards.
St. Johnstone drew first blood when on loan defender Darnell Fisher struck the ball up field for Steven MacLean, he made his towards the bye line before cutting his cross back to substitute Liam Craig, who fired in from twelve yards, minutes after coming on to make it 1-0. Accies seemed to be stunned by this turn of events and no sooner had the game restarted when we found ourselves two down, Fisher struck a long free kick into the Hamilton penalty area and Darian MacKinnon looked to have handled, he certainly had a high arm while jumping, the referee awarded the home side a penalty kick and Steven MacLean stepped up and converted from the spot, 2-0, 24 minutes played.
Accies were going through a really tough spell but somehow managed to raise their game to press an attack into the St. Johnstone half, a ball was played along the deck inside to Garcia Tena and Jesus struck the ball from 25 yards with his first touch, it flew towards the St. Johnstone goal but inched past the top left hand corner at the last second. We worked hard to get ourselves back into the match before half time arrived in earnest, the ball was taken the length of the park and Darian MacKinnon found himself in possession just in front of the Saints back four, Carlton Morris got himself into a good position and MacKinnon slipped a nicely weighted ball through to Morris who unleashed an almighty shot from eight yards, if not taken from such a tight angle, it may have been much more difficult for Mannus to make the block on.
Four minutes before the break Saints made it three when David Wotherspoon played out wide to O’Halloran, he made a strong run down wing before crossing low into Accies penalty area to MacLean who then made no mistake and struck home from 15 yards, 3-0.
Hamilton found themselves with a chance early on in the second half when we were awarded a free kick 22 yards from goal, right on the edge of the St. Johnstone penalty area, Ali Crawford got his body behind the ball and struck his shot well, he managed to get height on the ball but it sailed just wide for a goal kick. Saints got their fourth on 53 minutes, Craig and Wotherspoon combined well out on the flank before Craig struck a dangerous ball into the Hamilton penalty area, Graham Cummins headed down towards goal from eight yards and MacLean got his third of the afternoon when he slid in and nicked the ball under Michael McGovern from very close range.
In the 62nd minute Accies had the ball in the net but it was judged offside, the feeling was that it was marginal, the ball was played through the Saints backline for Gramoz Kurtaj who was able to bring it under control before placing into the goal. Within four minutes, the improved performance paid off for Accies, Ali Crawford struck his corner in towards goal, the ball was played back out to Crawford who then came inside and knocked the ball over to the far post, Lucas Tagliapietra rose above those around him and headed home powerfully from 12 yards to reduce the leeway, 4-1.
On 71 minutes Accies were putting Saints under pressure, the ball came to Jesus Garcia Tena on the edge of the box, he moved one way then another in an attempt to find space, his shot was right on target but Alan Mannus managed to make a great diving save and touched out for a corner kick. In the 81st minute we had a decent chance when Crawford struck another corner to the far post, it fell to deck and big Lucas Tagliapietra hammered towards goal from close range but deflected off of a Saints defender and out for a corner kick.
Speaking after the match, Hamilton manager Martin Canning was disappointed with the result but tried to take the positives from his side’s performance “I think when you look at the result then obviously disappointing, I thought we started the game well and for the first twenty or twenty five minutes I thought we were excellent. I think it was a stonewall penalty and I think it’s potentially a red card as well and I think it changes the complexion of the game, having said that it doesn’t excuse us from going and losing three goals in the first half which I was disappointed with. Second half I thought there were positives, I thought we kept going, considering we lost the first goal of the second half which I think was the fourth goal. It would be easy then to kind of capitulate and give in and I didn’t think we did, I thought they continued to work hard and the second half was more of an even game if you like, I thought it was a lot better from our point of view but the damage was done in the first half.”
During the half time break, some of the team shared their feelings on the early penalty shout, Martin was philosophical when he said “the players had said that to me, that the assistant referee on the main stand side had given it and the referee had over ruled him, I think as he thought he was in a better position to decide, so it’s one of those things in football, you’ll get some and you won’t get some, on days like this when you don’t get it, it’s difficult and there will be plenty of days hopefully in the future when we’ll get decisions that’ll benefit us.”
Looking forward to Tuesday night’s fixture at Pittodrie against league leader’s Aberdeen, Martin went on “obviously it’s a big game, we knew before this game that it was a going to be a big game as well, they’re all hard games, there’s no easy games and obviously they’ll be flying just now as well, having beaten Celtic today, so it’ll be a difficult task, but we’ll prepare as we always do and we’ll go up and try to win the match as we always do.”
St. Johnstone: Mannus, MacKay, Millar, Davidson (Craig 19), MacLean (Thomson 77), Wotherspoon, Shaugnessy, Cummins (Sutton 83), Fisher, Easton, O’Halloran. Subs Unused: Clark, Scobbie, Lappin, Kane.
Goals: L Craig 22, S MacLean 24 pen, S MacLean 41, MacLean 53,
Cautions: C Millar, D Fisher, L Craig.
Accies: McGovern, Gordon, Kurakins, Gillespie, Imrie (Nade 45), Crawford, Kurtaj, Morris (Longridge 81), MacKinnon (Docherty 61), Garcia Tena, Tagliapietra. Subs Unused: Martin, Canning, Redmond, Lyon.
Goals: Tagliapietra 66,
Cautions: G Gillespie, G Kurtaj.
Referee: Andy Dallas Assistants: Graham Chambers & Graham McNeillie 4th Official: Colin Steven