A decent display and several good chances for us at Celtic Park on Wednesday night, but losing two goals in a minute just before half time was to be our undoing.
Earlier, Danny Redmond had levelled at 1-1 for us where around 25,000 watched at Parkhead.
Celtic Park, Glasgow
Wednesday 13th December 2017, kick off 7.45pm
Celtic 3 Hamilton Academical 1
All the goals came in the first half as Celtic made it 69 domestic games unbeaten to stay five points clear at the top. A delightful Danny Redmond chip had cancelled out an early Olivier Ncham volley, but the champions reasserted themselves before half time with a quick-fire double from James Forrest and Scott Sinclair.
A resolute Accies rallied in the second half where other sides might have crumbled, and probably creating the better chances. A Rakish Bingham shot struck the woodwork late on and could have made things interesting as mistakes crept into Celtic’s play. Despite a second straight defeat Martin Canning was pleased with the way his players stuck at it on a freezing night in Glasgow’s East End.
“I thought we performed well, even in the first half. You know coming here that Celtic are going to have the lion’s share of possession but I was pleased by the effort, commitment and quality we showed overall. “
“Ultimately the two goals right before half time have killed the game for us. It was an uphill task after that. But in the second half we’ve probably had three or four really good opportunities, and we should have converted at least one of those.”
“I think that’s probably the most we’ve created here, even including the time we won here a few years back. The disappointment is that we’ve taken just one point from the last nine, whereas we have deserved a lot more. I think this squad is strong enough to start picking up some points again, and Saturday is big for us again now.”
With five changes to his side from Saturday’s defeat to St Johnstone, the manager underlined his pre match comments about the strength in depth now has at his disposal. Bingham started up front on his own in place of the injured Rojano, with Redmond in the attacking midfield role in place of Templeton. Donati replaced Lyon to face his former club in a midfield holding role, with Gogic and Gillespie in for Sarris and Skondras at the back.
Brendan Rodgers meanwhile shuffled the side which drew at Hibs, as Tierney, Lustig and Simunovic dropped to the bench. In came Bitton, Ajer and Armstrong as the Celtic looked to continue that remarkable unbeaten record.
They began ominously, as anticipated dominating possession and showing an early eye for goal. Just a minute in and Nir Bitton was testing Gary Woods’ reflexes from the edge of the box, with a powerful drive tipped wide. Forrest came close just a minute later with a dipping shot just over. Nitcham then curled just wide on seven minutes as the pressure mounted.
The Celtic midfielder went one better to open the scoring on 11 minutes, as a nice one two with McGregor allowed Sinclair to work some space down the right flank. The delivery sat up perfectly for Nitcham running onto it in the box to volley an unstoppable drive first time past Woods from 10 yards.
Accies sat deep and tried to contain as the home confidence grew. The eye for the spectacular continued as another Nitcham effort was tipped away by Woods on 24 minutes. But against the odds Accies silenced Parkhead to equalise with virtually our first foray into the Celtic half. Imrie and MacKinnon combined down the left to set up Redmond on the left corner of the box. His lunging first time chip flew into Gordon’s corner for his second goal of the season.
It knocked the early swagger out of Celtic as slack passing crept into their game and the home support began to get on their backs. Accies hoped to get to half time having sown some doubts, but the hoops grabbed it by the scruff of the neck again with two strikes in swift succession.
Firstly Stuart Armstrong split the Accies back line with a through ball beating the offside for Forrest to round Woods and score on 39 minutes. Before we could pick ourselves up Sinclair added number three, as slack play in defence allowed Edouard to pick out Sinclair inside the box to dink into Woods’ far corner.
Further damage was averted just before the interval as MacKinnon headed just over his own bar on 43 minutes, with Woods called into action from the resulting corner, tipping away a Boyata header.
We were living dangerously as Celtic looked to step things up further in the second half, Edouard looking lively with runs in behind the Accies defence.
We weathered the storm though. Bingham had looked an isolated figure up front for the opening hour, but began to see more of the ball in attacking areas. A low speculative shot from 30 yards was easily held by Gordon on 55 minutes, before a good passing move involving Donati and Imrie almost found him in the middle five minutes later.
We found some space on the other flank on 68 minutes, Greg Docherty picking out the Accies striker in the area, but his first time shot was disappointing. A driving run into the box by the Accies midfielder on 72 minutes was only just beyond his strike colleague in the box. With Celtic easing off in the latter stages Accies carved out the best of the late opportunities.
Bingham was so close to pulling one back on 80 minutes, striking the woodwork on 80 minutes from a tight angle after slack play in the Celtic defence. The rebound fell agonizingly behind sub Darren Lyon with the goal gaping and Celtic recovered to clear.
Celtic looked comfortable though for the most part, albeit being far from their best. And Gary Woods capped a fine performance between the sticks, denying substitute Jonny Hayes from a tight angle on 87 minutes.
Celtic: Gordon, Bitton, Brown, Sinclair, Armstrong, Boyata (Simunovic, 72), Nitcham, Edouard (Griffiths, 67), Ajer, McGregor, Forrest (Hayes, 79); Subs Unused: De Vries, Dembele, Lustig, Tierney
Accies: Woods, McMann, Tomas, Gillespie (Skondras, 49), Imrie (c), Docherty, Bingham (Cunningham 83), Redmond (Lyon, 78 ), Gogic, MacKinnon, Donati; Subs Unused: Fulton, Templeton, Ferguson, Sarris
Referee: Stephen Finnie, Assistants: Ralph Gordon, Graham McNeillie Fourth Official: David Munro
Celtic Goals : Ntcham, 11, Forrest, 40, Sinclair, 41
Celtic Bookings : Eduoard, 44
Accies Goals: :Redmond, 28
Accies Bookings: :Gillespie, 36
Att: 53,883 (193 Accies)