THE old adage that playing against ten men can be harder than a full compliment haunted Hamilton Accies yesterday as Raith Rovers came from behind to remain unbeaten on the road.
Hamilton had looked on course to maintain their 100 per cent home record when James Keatings put them ahead and Dougie Hill was red-carded.
However, Alex Neil’s side were unable to make their numerical advantage pay and were punished when the softest of spot-kick awards allowed Calum Elliot to claim an equaliser.
Home manager Neil declared: “It’s always difficult against ten men because they sit in and, for whatever reason, seem to galvanise each other.
“I thought we were excellent in the first half and, to be honest, the referee has gifted them a way back into the game.
“I’ve seen the incident again on the video and it’s never a penalty. It was an incredible decision.”
Accies might have been ahead early on when Jason Thomson bundled Keatings to the ground on the left edge of the box.
A free-kick from the training ground saw Ali Crawford pick out Tony Andreu at the far post but the unmarked Frenchman put his header over the bar.
At the other end Greig Spence almost punished his old team when he fastened onto a long through-ball, turned Martin Canning and sent a 20-yard shot inches over.
Accies began to impose themselves and a slick one-touch move involving Keatings and Andreu ended with David McGurn diving to save Mickael Antoine-Curier’s left foot shot.
The league leaders went close again when a Keatings free kick was blocked on the line and Crawford fired the rebound narrowly over.
Hamilton claimed a deserved lead when Crawford exposed a huge hole in the centre of the Raith defence with an early pass that sent Keatings racing clear.
Hamilton’s top scorer waited for McGurn to make his move before placing his left foot shot into the keeper’s bottom right-hand corner.
Raith’s woes were compounded just four minutes later when Hill, booked earlier, received a second yellow card for a scything tackle on Keatings.
McGurn was booked for racing from his line to confront Hamilton players baying for a red card.
But the keeper regained his composure to make a marvellous diving save to deny Darian Mackinnon who was preparing to celebrate after meeting Andreu’s knock-down with a sweetly struck volley.
Rovers almost hit back on the restart when Spence pounced on a loose ball and fired in an angled shot which gave home keeper Kevin Cuthbert his first save of the game.
Spurred back into life, Hamilton responded with a Crawford run and shot which McGurn held.
But, with just a goal separating the sides, Raith were still in it and got the break they needed when substitute Gordon Smith went down in the box under a challenge from Devlin.
Referee Iain Brines stunned the home support by pointing to the spot and Elliot buried his shot low into the right-hand corner.
Raith were content to play out the closing minutes for a draw but they were almost caught when Jon McShane met Ziggy Gordon’s cross with a header that looped just over.
Grant Murray, the visiting manager, said: “Going down to ten men made it very difficult but we showed tremendous character to come back in the second half.
“Hamilton have been playing really well and haven’t conceded many goals, so to come away from a point is very pleasing.”