McDiarmid Park, Perth
Saturday 16th January 2016
St. Johnstone 0 Hamilton Academical 0
This match managed to survive the wintery weather conditions that had caused havoc to matches throughout the land. The McDiarmid Park pitch wasn’t at its best that’s for sure, but was clear of snow and good enough for referee Andrew Dallas to allow play to take place. The match was far from a classic and always looked like a 0-0, both sides deservedly sharing points.
The highlights of the match, would have been both sides decent penalty shouts for hand ball. Saints came six minutes from time when Ziggy Gordon looked to handle from a Sutton header, Accies ten minutes earlier when Joe Shaughnessy appeared to handle from a Lucas Tagliapietra header. Both sides had chances cleared from the goal line, the most spectacular, late on, in the Accies goalmouth.
St. Johnstone edged the first half, always looking more likely to score with their counter attacking style of play, though both sides only managing two attempts on target in the whole ninety minutes. Saying that, the Hamilton defence looked more comfortable than recently, and broke up much of the Saints momentum before reaching the penalty area.
The second half was much better for us, keeping possession and getting the ball forward with far more regularity. Saints got themselves back into the match toward the end, and came close to snatching a win. That would have been unfair though, as Hamilton showed great character, battling for their point.
We made four changes to the side that turned out at Galabank. Tagliapietra, Kurakins, Lyon and Kurtaj all made the starting line up, replacing Garcia Tena, Gillespie, Redmond and Brophy. Saints in turn, made five changes to their side.With Shaughnessy, Wotherspoon, Lappin, Thomson and Cummins all taking a place the first XI, whilst Fisher, O’Halloran, Millar, Craig and Kane were missing.
With barely 30 seconds gone the ball was played forward to Alex D’Acol who then sent inside for Crawford, the ball was rolled wide for Greg Docherty’s shot to be deflected wide for a corner kick. Saints then reacted well by Wotherspoon whipping in a corner to the near post, Maclean ran in and headed a foot clear of the cross bar.
From a throw in, MacLean played inside for Graham Cummins, who deftly cut back outside, beating his marker. He struck from 15 yards, but Michael McGovern was able to save by touching round the post for a corner kick. Later the ball was played forward to MacLean, holding off Gordon he managed to cut the ball inside for Davidson, he let go, Cummins shot and McGovern saved.
With the last action of the first half, Hamilton carved out a rare opportunity. Gramoz Kurtaj and Ali Crawford combined well, before the ball was sent in the direction of Greg Docherty. He struck low and hard from 22 yards, Saints keeper Alan Mannus had to be at his best when he got down to make the save on his right hand side.
Accies started the second period well, Docherty made a run down the left, sent the ball inside for Kurtaj, he shot from 15 yards, but a Saints defender made a good blocking challenge. Crawford then sent a perfectly weighted 40 yard pass long and wide to Kurtaj, he cut inside and shot from just outside the penalty area, Mannus saved. He then made a save from a Docherty long range effort.
Accies had a great sequence of twenty passes in and around the home penalty box, Antons Kurakins final cross being gathered by Mannus. Docherty won the ball and played to MacKinnon, he made a run through the centre, under a challenge and the ball went loose to Crawford.He slipped as he passed back to MacKinnon,his shot from 18 yards, took a deflection and Mannus saved.
Ex Accie Brian Easton made a good run down the left, sent the ball further wide again for Simon Lappin who delivered a cross to beyond the back post. Thomson’s foot connected 12 yards out, but sent high of the Hamilton cross bar. Kurtaj won a ball before sending inside to Crawford, he shot from 25 yards but Mannus had plenty of time to see the approach, and saved comfortably in the end.
Crawford threaded a pass through the Saints back line for Kurtaj wide on the left, he cut his way inside to goal, shot to the inside of the near post, but struck Docherty and out for a goal kick. A loose ball broke for Kurtaj, he crossed into the penalty area, Mannus got a touch but couldn’t hold, two defenders tried clear, before Carlton Morris sent inches over the cross bar.
There was late drama in the Accies goalmouth when Thomson crossed into the penalty area for Sutton, the ball glanced off his head and hit the arm of Gordon, but Dallas waved away the Saints players’ appeals. Then minutes from time, a Saints corner was delivered to the near post area, Sutton headed from five yards, the ball was blocked before McGovern bravely smothered and gathered to safety.
Hamilton boss Martin Canning said of his sides clean sheet, “I think it’s something we know that we can do better, in terms of keeping clean sheets, we have worked on it all week, to try and give ourselves the best chance to go and win the game. We talked about it and tried to get back to keeping a clean sheet, obviously if we’d nicked one and we had a couple of opportunities, it was a very good away performance. In the circumstances I think if either team had lost, it would have been unfair on the losing side, though for us, it’s a good point coming up here, it’s a hard place, we’ll take the point and move on.”
On the dramatic change from last week’s performance, he said “I think everyone was hurting after last week, the whole club from the top to the bottom, it’s not a nice experience and it’s the first time in my career that it’s happened to me, all you can do in those circumstances is look for a reaction from your players and staff. Everyone worked so hard through the week, and I think you can see that today, the application, the attitude and the effort is what I expected it to be.”
When asked about the Saints penalty claim, Martin said, “I think there was one before it, from Lucas in the box that was probably a penalty as well, so I think that if you’re going to give one, that you’ve got to give both or give neither, as he has done. And on his changes at the back, he said, “I think that we’ve looked at it and it’s not rocket science, we’re conceding too many goals, so if the boys take a lift from that, good. Like I said to them after the game, I think that the application and effort from them is a minimum that I expect, particularly after last week’s performance. So for me, if you can take a lift from that and take the positives, then hopefully we can do so and take them into Tuesday’s match.”
Saints: Mannus, MacKay, Lappin (Craig 75), Anderson, Davidson, MacLean (Sutton 82), Wotherspoon, Shaughnessy, Cummins (Kane 71), Easton, Thomson. Subs Unused: Clark, Scobbie, Caddis, Fisher.
Accies: McGovern, Gordon, Kurakins, Devlin, D’Acol (Morris 75), Crawford, Kurtaj, MacKinnon, Docherty, Lyon (Gillespie 75), Tagliapietra. Subs Unused: Martin, Brophy, Garcia Tena, Nade, Mandiangu.
Cautions: Tagliapietra, Gillespie.
Referee: Andrew Dallas Assistants: Douglas Ross & Stuart Hodge 4th Official: Stephen Finnie.