ABERDEEN missed the chance to go second in the Premiership yesterday when a spirited Hamilton Accies fightback earned the Lanarkshire side a share of the points.
The Dons scored early through Kenny McLean and led for more than an hour but one goal never looked like being enough to close the gap on leaders Celtic and Dougie Imrie’s equaliser was no more than Accies deserved.
Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes admitted his side’s play hadn’t merited the victory. “We got off to a brilliant start but we weren’t at our best, not by any stretch of the imagination,” he said. “Normally you have to be really at your best to win at Hamilton so we’ll take the positives out of this one. We weren’t but we still got a point.”
He felt Accies deserved a draw and his opposite number Martin Canning agreed. “We were the better side in the first half and unlucky to go in one down,” he said. “The second half was more even but again I thought we edged it.”
In a tribute to the victims of the Paris terrorist outrage, Hamilton played in French colours. A change of kit had been forced on them to avoid a clash with Aberdeen but the club – with two Frenchmen, coach Guillaume Beuzelin and striker Christian Nade, on their staff – decided to ask the SPFL if they could make a one-off switch to honour the 130 who were killed. The club couldn’t source 20 shirts in the French blue but found second-choice white away shirts and were able to badge and name them just in time for kick-off. The unique jerseys will be sent to France’s Ligue 1 clubs to auction for charity.
The first chance in the match came right away, an Ash Taylor miscue setting up Dougie Imrie whose shot was parried by Danny Ward, and then Grant Gillespie went close. Accies had enjoyed a go-kart bonding session during the international break and started the match in a high gear.
Then the lively start got even livelier but it was Aberdeen who scored. Niall McGinn’s cross from the right found McLean lurking eight yards out and with good composure his left-foot shot bulged the net, to the delight of the Dons fans in the away end who’d had to set off ridiculously early for this lunchtime kick-off. The goal was evidence of the quick and deadly breaks which had helped Aberdeen to the top of the league, before their slump. McLean and Adam Rooney continued to work some pleasing patterns and Peter Pawlett had the next opportunity, firing too high.
But Aberdeen would have to rely on the counter-attack, and increasingly sporadically, for the next phase of the match as Hamilton built up decent momentum. There would always be chances for them if Aberdeen continued to gift possession and Taylor was again culpable but Imrie’s shot was deflected.
Accies didn’t look like they needed this assistance, though, as much of their approach work was highly inventive. Looking for their first win since 26 September, Carlton Morris had a header drift the wrong side of a post.
Aberdeen managed to get back into the game in the first half’s closing minutes. A second goal for them at that stage would have been an unfair reflection, nevertheless McLean almost doubled the advantage with a low strike from the angle of the box.
The Dons continued the search for a second immediately after the break and Jonny Hayes probably should have scored with a header. McLean had another chance and for a while the home crowd had to content themselves with getting upset at the decision-making of referee Willie Collum.
To their credit, Hamilton persisted with the plan of playing neat passing football.
When they over-elaborated, the cry would go up: “Hit the bloody thing!” But in the 70th minute the system eventually brought its reward. Patient interplay created space for Gramoz Kurtaj on the edge of the box. His left-foot shot was low and hard, with Ward only able to deflect it into the path of Imrie who netted easily.
Accies fancied they could win it and claimed loudly for a penalty for handball against Shay Logan. Kurtaj’s claim was of the highly melodramatic variety as he sunk to his knees and beat the plastic pitch. Unimpressed, Collum booked him and stuck to his view the infringement had been outside the box.
Hayes went closest to finding a winner with a cross which scudded off the bar but Aberdeen had to be content with remaining in third place behind Hearts.
Hamilton Accies: McGovern, Gordon, Sendles-White, Tagliapietra, Kurakins, Gillespie, Imrie, MacKinnon, Kurtaj, Docherty (Boyd 80), Morris (D’Acol, 62). Subs not used: Canning, Longridge, Martin, Nade, Ryan.
Aberdeen: Ward, Logan (Considine, 79), Taylor, Reynolds, Shinnie, McLean, Flood, Rooney, McGinn, Hayes, Pawlett (Smith, 79). Subs Not Used: Robson, Goodwillie, Quinn, Brown, McLaughlin.