A goal in the first few minutes of each half, countered by Rakish Bingham’s 16th minute equaliser, saw the Glasgow side win 2-1.
We played the whole second half with ten men after Darren Lyon picked up two yellows inside a minute just before half time, the second of which certainly came into the harsh category.
Darian MacKinnon skippered the side in the absence of the suspended Dougie Imrie, while Ryan Fulton made his fourth appearance for us after Gary Woods failed to recover from a knock taken at Easter Road in midweek.
Martin McConnell reports…
New Douglas Park, Hamilton
Sunday 8th April 2018 at 12.30pm.
Hamilton Academical 1 Celtic 2
League leaders Celtic moved ever closer to retaining their Premiership title after beating ten-man Accies thanks to goals in the opening minutes of either half. Accies for their part contributed a lot to make a game of things, especially in the first half with Bingham equalising. We remain ninth and above Dundee thanks to a superior goal difference.
Our boss Martin Canning felt it was close game, “There was nothing in the game and it was the same against Hibs. It was 1-1. You still know that it’s going to be difficult but you’re playing against Celtic. But with eleven players on the pitch though, you’ve still got a chance. As soon as the ref makes that decision though, then it makes it really difficult to win the game or take something from it.”
Accies went behind after three minutes when MacGregor fired in from outside the Accies penalty area. But Hamilton grew in confidence to leave the champions in no doubt that they were in a game, being rewarded when Rakish Bingham fired in an equaliser. That work looked to have been put in serious jeopardy when Darren Lyon was sent off minutes before half time.
The second forty-five began in a similar vein as the first, with Hamilton caught cold after an unmarked Leigh Griffiths headed in from close range. With Hamilton sat deep for the rest of the half, chances were far and few between, but defended well enough to minimise the Celtic threat to mainly shots from distance.
Accies made a total of six changes to Tuesday night’s line-up, with Fulton, McMann, Jenkins, Bingham, Crawford and van der Weg replacing Woods, Imrie, Rojano, Ferguson, Sarris and Ogkmpoe. Celtic made five changes to the side that drew with Dundee, with Bain, Ajer, Roberts, Ntcham and Tierney in for Gordon, Lustig, Rogic, Armstrong and Forrest.
It wasn’t the most auspicious opening for Accies when Moussa Dembele went through on goal within eight seconds played, fortunately, Ryan Fulton blocked the strikers shot. However, it was a sign of things to come when minutes later Celtic took the lead when Callum MacGregor struck low through a busy goal mouth from wide, as the Hamilton defence stood off.
After setback, Hamilton settled down enough to get their feet on the ball, make some quality passes and the beginnings of a threat up front. Bingham looked sharp and there was a shout for a penalty when Hendry pushed Redmond to the ground inside the six-yard box.
With Accies confidence growing minute by minute, they finally silenced the travelling Celtic fans with an equaliser on twenty minutes. Ali Crawford clipped the ball over the Celtic back three, releasing Bingham to get the better of Kristoffer Ajer before firing past Scott Bain for his sixth strike of the season from ten yards out.
Apart from a save on a MacGregor strike just before the half hour, Fulton and the Hamilton defence didn’t have much to do at the back, managing to keep Celtic to a few speculative shots from range. But with five minutes left until half time, Accies went down to ten men when Darren Lyon was shown red after being cautioned twice inside a couple of minutes.
Hamilton were caught cold within minutes of the restart when Scott Sinclair skipped past Shaun Want wide on the left, before crossing near post for an unmarked Leigh Griffiths to nod home from a couple of yards out. Darian MacKinnon had a 22-yard strike blocked in front of goal, after Redmond and McCann combined well to tee up the Accies midfielder.
With a little under fifteen minutes of time left, Hamilton had a fantastic opportunity to equalise for a second time when Georgios Sarris nipped in at the Celtic front post, to nod Danny Redmond’s corner across the face of goal and wide of the back post. Celtic answered immediately when Sinclair headed wide from a Scott Brown cross.
Accies: Fulton, McMann, Jenkins, Tomas, Bingham, Redmond (Rojano 83), Crawford (Sarris 45), van der Weg, MacKinnon (c) (Ferguson 61), Lyon, Want. Subs Unused: Marshall, Miller, Hughes, Ogkmpoe.
Goal: Bingham 20.
Cautions: MacKinnon, Lyon, McMann.
Red card: Lyon, 2nd yellow
Celtic: Bain, Hendry (Griffiths 45), Ajer, Boyata, Roberts (Musonda 85), Brown, Ntcham, Tierney, McGregor, Sinclair, Dembele (Edouard 67). Subs Unused: de Vries, Lustig, Armstrong, Forrest.
Goals: MacGregor 3, Griffiths 46.
Referee: Andrew Dallas. Assistants: John McCrossan & Ralph Gordon. 4th Official: Barry Cook.