THERE was much that was decent about Morton yesterday. The Kenny Shiels’ revival is still to kick in, though.
The Irishman’s second game in charge brought a sixth straight defeat for the Cappielow side, with Mikael Antoine-Curier’s early headed goal ending a run of four games without a win for a Hamilton team that remain on the tails of Championship leaders Dundee.
Shiels, meanwhile, remains on the tail of Garry O’Connor as he attempts the squad surgery that will allow him to carry out a salvage operation on the club, with the visitors yesterday featuring on-loan Rangers attacker Barrie McKay and former Ibrox defender Darren Cole for the first time.
How quick a resolution could be arrived at regarding O’Connor, who has been a year without a club, was not a subject that the club’s assistant David Hopkin – given the media duties with Shiels yesterday completing a two-match touchline ban – was keen to ruminate on. He did not deny, though, that Shiels’ reshaping will pick up pace in the coming weeks.
“The new gaffer’s dealing with the players coming in and I think he’s probably got three or four lined up to come in during January. It would be great to get an experienced goalscorer in. You saw today we could play entertaining football, have good possession and create chances.”
And miss chances, most notably when Jake Nicholson scooped the ball over from close in after Blair Currie had pushed out a low curled free-kick from McKay. Martin Canning also headed a Reece Hands effort off the line in a second period wherein the visitors forced Hamilton, by manager Alex Neil’s own admission, into a policy of “containment”.
Hopkin despaired at the concession of the decisive goal, James Keatings allowed time and space to whip over a cross from the left that Antoine-Curier was able to climb on to unmarked to power in from four yards. “It has been the story of the last five or six weeks, playing well only to make one mistake and be beaten 1-0”, he added.
Apart from Antoine-Curier, young keeper Currie proved key for the home side. He was drafted in minutes before kick-off after Hamilton No.1 Kevin Cuthbert pulled up with a groin strain during the warm-up for a first start in 18 months. “I thought before the game a few things were conspiring against us after we lost a couple of players overnight and then Kevin. But Blair came in and played really well. I didn’t have any concerns about him but I just hoped he wouldn’t be overawed by being thrown in.”
In arresting a form slump Neil felt his players answered a few doubters. “The ability of our players has been called into question, and it has been asked whether they have been good enough. I said to the players that when that happens you have to go out and show people what you are made of and they did that.”