After the mayhem of Easter Road in midweek, we got another giant dollop of it yesterday. Shameful scenes erupted on the half-time whistle as St Johnstone’s Richard Foster and Danny Swanson had a confrontation with each other that became a proper scrap.
As the stramash threatened to spiral out of control players from each side became involved, and when after what seemed like an eternity and the dust had settled, both culprits were rightly red carded at the interval by referee Don Robertson. Hamilton first-team coach Guillaume Beuzlin was also sent to the stand for getting into a heated spat with the visitors’ management team.
On a day when the prevailing sense was one of embarrassment for the Perth club, their remaining nine players came awfully close to restoring a smidgen of pride as they held out until the dying seconds, before Alex D’Acol, pictured below, slotted in a goal that could be of huge significance in Hamilton’s battle to beat the drop. Hard though it was not to feel some sympathy for the vanquished, the fact remained that when both sides were at a full complement in the opening 45 minutes, Accies were undoubtedly the more impressive.
When St Johnstone manager Tommy Wright appeared he made no attempt to diminish the gravity of what had unfolded although he indicated that he had not seen the incident in its entirety. “I’ve told the two players involved in front of the rest that the club will investigate it. But they’ve been told that if what’s alleged to have happened has happened, I will and the club will come down on them as hard as we possibly can and legally can. I know what’s been alleged and I’ve heard other things being alleged this week as well that maybe didn’t happen, but until we investigate it that’s what’s going to happen.
“They’ve been really foolish. Whatever was happening on the pitch, that should have waited until they were in the dressing room. It was a magnificent performance from the nine that stayed on the pitch and they won’t allow this to derail them.”
If Wright was understandably also frustrated that his side’s achievement of once again confirming a top-six finish courtesy of results elsewhere was completely obscured by the dark cloud of Foster and Swanson’s indiscipline, spare a thought for his counterpart Martin Canning. This victory lifted Accies off the bottom of the Premiership once more as their ongoing game of leapfrog with Inverness continues. They played some fine football, particularly in the first half, but were undone by wayward finishing, with Rakish Bingham the main culprit.
They, too, were plainly affected by the fracas and they nearly ran out of ideas in terms of how to unlock a stubbornly compact Saints defence. But Accies kept at it and eventually just prevailed. “Thankfully we got that goal in the end, I think we deserved it”, insisted Canning. “I’m delighted to get a big three points.” Of the incident, he added: “It’s not what you want to see. But that’s for them to deal with”
After having the upper hand in the opening 45 minutes it would be fair to say that if anyone was entitled to be a tad frustrated with themselves it was Accies. However as the players began to make their way to the tunnel a ruck got underway between Foster and Swanson with both seeming to land blows.
Match referee Don Robertson took it all in and nodded his head calmly as the miscreants were ushered off the pitch. Sure enough neither Foster nor Swanson re-emerged after the break having been red carded and their team mates were left with the seemingly hopeless task of trying to get something out a game with only nine on the pitch.
With the initiative now entirely resting with the Accies, they actually struggled to rekindle the zest and purpose they had so impressively displayed earlier. Eventually they did start to test Alan Mannus, with Michael Devlin’s 25-yard drive putting the keeper at full stretch. He then bettered that block with a fine reflex save from Ali Crawford.
A heroic effort by the Perth men seemed destined to get an unlikely reward until, in the last minute of the 90, Accies calmly prised them apart with a through ball finding D’Acol, who slotted it into the net to spark jubilant scenes.