Web reporter Martin McConnell gives us his take on Saturday’s vital league win over St Johnstone
SuperSeal Stadium, Hamilton
Saturday 1st April 2017 at 3pm.
Hamilton Academical 1 St. Johnstone 0
On a crazy April Fools Day, Alex D’Acol’s 90th minute strike gave us three precious points, lifting us from the foot of the table. Of course, this will likely be a footnote following the behaviour of two Saints team mates towards one another on the stroke of half time.
The ramifications are for others, but the match winner came after Accies had toiled for the second 45 minutes against nine men. Swanson and Foster had come to blows at the break, with referee Don Robertson dismissing both Saints players at the interval. Saints boss Tommy Wright left no one in any doubt afterward that action will be taken against the two players.
Accies boss Martin Canning meanwhile wants this to be a season defining victory. He reflected afterwards on a vital three points, with eight matches left to secure premiership survival.
“It’s a huge three points for us today. Our home form of recent has been pretty good, that’s now three wins and two draws from our last five. We need to maintain that, as well as start picking up points on the road, starting at Motherwell on Wednesday.”
“Today I thought we deserved it, even with 11 v 11 in the first half I thought we were the better team. It helps having Alex, Michael and Darian back in in the side too, three important players. I think you could see their impact in the first half in particular.”
Canning did not see the incident at half time, with his main focus being on keeping his own players from getting involved in the fracas.
“I was heading down the tunnel at half time and just caught the end of it all. We ran back on just to make sure everything was okay from our players’ point of view. We just expressed our opinion to the ref about the two players’ conduct, that it was two red cards, and some of the St. Johnstone players then took exception to that. It turned into a bit of a mess with bookings and red cards and it’s not what anyone wants to see.”
“What happens next is for Tommy Wright and others to deal with. From a football point of view, we’re just delighted with the three points. I was starting to think that the goal wouldn’t come but we showed great desire right to the end.”
Both managers had made changes to their respective starting eleven from a fortnight ago. Accies welcomed back fit again captain Michael Devlin, with Alex D’Acol also back in the starting line-up. Rakish Bingham started up front whilst Remi Matthews replaced the injured Gary Woods in goal.
Tommy Wright meanwhile made two changes to the starting XI that were victorious a fortnight ago at Fir Park, with Alan Mannus, starting in goal and Murray Davidson getting a start.
The first half had settled into a stalemate until the half time fireworks. Accies had perhaps shaded it, looking a lot sharper with the presence of the fit again Alex D’Acol up front. Yet, after Darian MacKinnon had forced a good stop from Mannus in the 3rd minute, they weren’t able to trouble the Saints keeper further.
Accies continued to have most of the play, with Crawford and Bingham linking up well on 15 and 33 minutes, but neither could test Mannus, firing over the bar. Bingham should have done better just on the break after Crawford’s corner was cleared out to him, but, with space and time, he couldn’t keep his volleyed effort down.
The Perth men hadn’t offered a lot in response, working hard to close down space in midfield, without creating anything of their own in the final third. And these frustrations may be what boiled over at the end of a very ordinary first half.
Accies had been gifted a two-man advantage for the second half but arguably found the going tougher against the nine men. The Saints game plan was now all about surviving for the point, and it almost succeeded. Time after time Accies attacks broke down on the 18-yard box, as their opponents dug in and denied them space.
There was plenty of width and attacking deliveries, particularly through McMann, but still the hosts couldn’t carve out any meaningful opportunities. It was to take captain Devlin to step up from the back and provide a first second half test for Mannus, with his drive from outside the area tipped over on 71 minutes.
Crawford forced another fine save from the Saints keeper on 82 minutes. His powerful shot from an Imrie cut back seemed goal bound until Mannus flung out a good glove to tip over.
And that seemed to be about that, as the clock ticked down and a frustrated home support headed for the exits. However, in the 90th minute the deadlock was finally broken, as Imrie got to the right byeline and cut back for McMann, laying into the path of D’Acol to sweep a low shot past Mannus from close range.
Accies: Matthews, Devlin, Gillespie (Skondras 52), Imrie, Docherty (Brophy 65), D’Acol, Crawford, Bingham (Redmond 75), MacKinnon, McMann, Sarris. Subs Unused: Jamieson, Gogic, Donati, Adams.
Goal: D’Acol 90.
Cautions: Devlin, Crawford.
St Johnstone: Mannus, Scobie, Alston (Smith 45), Davidson, Swanson, Shaughnessy, Paton, Foster, Easton, Craig (Millar 87), Cummins. Subs Unused: Clark, Wotherspoon, Coulson, Thomson, Hurst.
Sent off.Foster & Swanson
Referee: Don Robertson. Assistants: Alan Mulvanny & Michael Banks. 4th Official: Prof Dr John. McKendrick.