WITH his side a goal up against St Johnstone, an elusive first win finally appeared to be hoving into view for Hamilton boss Martin Canning.
Then a moment of madness from the player-manager reduced his side to ten men and aided the visitors in their fightback.
The second half was only 12 minutes old when Canning bore down on Michael O’Halloran streaking down the right. The visiting attacker was clearly getting to the ball first, but that didn’t dissuade Canning from continuing with his challenge as he careered into the St Johnstone player at top speed. It left referee Greg Aitken with no choice but to show the red card.
The silver lining for Canning was that, after conceding an equaliser, his side showed enough resilience not to capitulate and held on for what could be a precious point in their bid to hold on to a top six spot.
But even if they do manage to fall backwards into the top six, this terrible run doesn’t look like stopping any time soon and raises serious questions regarding their hopes and aspirations for next season. Under Canning it’s now 12 games without a win, and four points from a possible 36.
Just like their last home match at New Douglas Park against Ross County, Accies got off to the perfect start with a goal inside the opening ten minutes. A cross from the right dropped for Nigel Hasselbaink who managed to squeeze the ball through for Ali Crawford and the midfielder steadied himself before lashing high into the net.
St Johnstone grew into the match and began to dictate possession as the hosts reverted to a long ball game toward the diminutive Hasselbaink. However, barring an O’Halloran chance when he took a heavy touch trying to round the goalkeeper, St Johnstone didn’t create many opportunities. This prompted manager Tommy Wright to make a half-time switch, with Simon Lappin coming on for Murray Davidson and the side switching to a 4-4-2.
“Davidson took a knock, but to be honest it was a change we probably would have made after ten or 15 minutes of the second half,” admitted Wright afterwards.
“We practised playing the ball quickly out wide and getting balls in but I didn’t think we were doing that. And in the first half the most joy we had is when we went direct to Brian Graham, so we went even more direct as we found it hard to pass on that pitch.”
The change had the desired effect, with the visitors starting the second half much stronger. Lappin and O’Halloran each had chances from a frantic goalmouth scramble two minutes after the restart. Then came Canning’s lunge. What went through his mind will remain a mystery as the Accies boss failed to show for the post-match press conference.
Prior to the equaliser, Graham missed a glorious chance to restore parity after O’Halloran scampered down the right and hung a teasing cross which Graham header inches wide of goal. However, he would make no mistake when found by Lappin on the opposite wing, planting the ball right into the side netting from six yards out.
Hasselbaink went close with a rare counter-attack for the hosts, but they spent the six minutes of injury time fighting off a series of set-pieces from St Johnstone before the referee mercifully blew for full time.
Hamilton: McGovern; Gordon, Devlin, Canning, Hendrie (MacDonald 77); MacKinnon, Gillespie; Longridge, Crawford, Redmond (Garcia Tena 58); Hasselbaink (Brophy 80). Subs not used: Hill, Scotland, Lyon, Docherty.
St Johnstone: Mannus; Mackay, Scobbie, Anderson, Easton; Davidson (Lappin 45), Millar; Swanson (Croft 80), Wotherspoon, O’Halloran (Kane 84), Graham. Subs not used: Banks, Wright, Caddis, Miller.
Referee: G Aitken. Attendance: 2,032.
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