Web reporter Martin McConnell gives us his take on Saturday’s opening encounter
Betfred Cup, Group Stage
Saturday 15th July 2017 at 2pm
K Park, East Kilbride.
East Kilbride 1 Hamilton Academical 3
We eventually won the first of our four Betfred Cup group matches thanks to two late goals, but not before EK made us work for it in a difficult second half. The Lowland League Champs almost took the lead inside the first minute, before Accies went onto dominate the first 45, with Darian MacKinnon volleying home the opener from a corner.
The second half was to be a different matter, with the K Park men proving a far trickier opponent, almost equalising when Strachan struck the cross bar. They then did manage to pull themselves onto even terms when Sean Winter struck from the penalty spot. Accies made hard work of it, but retook the lead from the head of Louis Longridge, before Ali Crawford tapped home the third on the 90th minute.
Accies boss Martin Canning was impressed with EK, saying “These games are always difficult, I thought East Kilbride did really well. I thought they were really well organised, had a good shape about them and worked really hard.”
“I said to the players, that when they come to places like this, they’ve got to take their opportunities as we missed so many chances. When you create chances, you can build on that and feed on missed opportunities, because it gives you something to hang onto and fight for. We made the game more difficult for ourselves than it needed to be.
“Overall, I felt pretty comfortable in the game with the chances that we created, but East Kilbride gave a good account of themselves. It’s a great wee set up here and the first time I’ve been up here, but they done well.”
The hosts almost shocked Accies when they passed on the chance to open the scoring with only 40 seconds on the clock, when Winter played Aidan Ferris on. Fortunately for Hamilton, the new EK striker struck across goal and inches wide of the back post.
It wasn’t long before Accies answered with chances of their own. Louis Longridge tested the keeper from 20 yards after being played on by Greg Docherty, Ali Crawford got onto the end of a great Georgios Sarris long ball forward to strike from the corner of the box, McGinley saving comfortably, then Sarris headed a touch high of the bar from a Crawford cross.
Accies finally found their stride and continued to threaten. Skipper Dougie Imrie had a shot blocked for a corner after a penalty area tussle with Russell, McGinley then saving shots from distance by Crawford and Sarris.
Hamilton continued to create, but nothing that troubled the EK Keeper. Crawford saw a strike sail over the crossbar then a free kick from 22 yards was palmed past the post, from the corner, and Greg Docherty’s back post header was saved. Rakish Bingham had his first attempt of the afternoon blocked wide of goal, then from Crawford’s corner, Sarris headed wide at the back post.
Bingham had a chance to show his class after Alex Gogic played a fantastic long ball down the wing into space in the corner, Bingham skinned the right back for pace, gathered the ball, cut inside and lobbed the keeper from wide. Just as it looked as if Accies would take the lead, McGinley managed to reach back and get a fingertip to knock the ball wide of goal.
For once, the busy home keeper struggled when Crawford sent a dipping free kick into the six-yard box from just outside the corner of the box, it came off McGinley’s shins, eventually found Greg Docherty, who sliced well wide of goal. Accies finally broke the deadlock seven minutes from the break, when an unmarked Darian MacKinnon found the top corner with a six-yard volley from a Crawford corner.
The half time break seemed to have blunted Accies edge, East Kilbride appeared rejuvenated, but without causing much trouble for Gary Woods. Rakish Bingham opened the action by heading wide from a Longridge cross, then the big man volleyed over from six yards, when it almost looked easier to put Hamilton two to the good.
As it often does, it almost proved an expensive miss when Strachan struck the Accies cross bar from a thundering 30-yard free kick, the rebound was then struck into the side netting by McCann from just a few yards out, with an almost open goal at his mercy. However, eleven minutes later East Kilbride levelled when they were awarded a spot kick after Sarris brought down Howie inside the penalty area, Winter then slotted the ball right, as Woods committed to the left.
Hamilton went in search of a winner, but their impatience led to ball after ball missing the mark. Then with ten minutes left, Longridge headed home from a Grant Gillespie cross.
A third followed just as the match entered into the final minute after some slick play at the back found Darren Lyon out on the right. His run toward goal ended with a ball inside to Steven Boyd, moved quickly to Danny Redmond, who looked as if he’d taken half a dozen touches too many before slipping the ball through for Ali Crawford to tap in yards from goal.
EK:McGinley, Stevenson, Russell, Proctor, Howie, Gibbons, Winter, McCann (Coogans 87), Ferris (Caldwell 63), McBride (McLeish 63), Strachan. Subs Unused: Kean, Hughes, McNeil, Coll.
Goals: Winter 69 pen.
Accies: Woods, McMann (Lyon 47), Gillespie, Imrie (Redmond 58 ), Docherty (S Boyd 76), Bingham, Crawford, Gogic, Longridge, MacKinnon, Sarris. Subs Unused: Jamieson, Hughes, Tierney, Want.
Goals: MacKinnon 38, Longridge 80, Crawford 90.
Referee: Craig Napier. Assistants: Paul O’Neill & Colin McAlpine.