MICKAEL Antoine-Curier was Hamilton’s hero as he scored on his return to earn his side a 1-0 win at Kilmarnock in the Scottish Communities League Cup.
Scorers: Hamilton - Antoine-Curier (42)
Referee: C Murray
Last season Allan Johnston could have been forgiven for believing that this management lark was a stroll in the park.
His first season in the job saw his Queen of the South romp to the Second Division title while also winning the Ramsdens Cup, while also becoming the
highest-scoring side in Scotland.
It must seem very different now. After five matches he has still to record his first victory since succeeding Kenny Shiels at Kilmarnock, although this defeat marked a low point. A solitary goal from Mickael Antoine-Curier was enough to eliminate the Ayrshire club from the League Cup, a tournament they famously won only last year.
The most depressing aspect for those who bothered to turn up and cheer them (at first, that is) is that these reverses no longer come as a surprise:
Kilmarnock have not won at Rugby Park since February.
The tie took a while to settle down and open up but the hosts engineered a decent opening after 13 minutes when a deep cross from William Gros reached Rabiu Ibrahim on the corner of the six-yard box. He looked odds-on to open his
Kilmarnock account but the Nigerian’s netbound shot was blocked by Grant Gillespie throwing himself in front of it.
Accies, brimful with confidence in spite of that early scare, squandered an even more clear-cut opportunity just five minutes later when the unmarked Michael Devlin, six yards out, headed wastefully over from an Ali Crawford free-kick. The home side lacked creativity, though, and their toothlessness up front allowed their opponents to become increasingly adventurous as the game went on.
Darien MacKinnon was cautioned for a professional foul on Ibrahim but Kilmarnock’s frustration increased when they fell behind four minutes from the interval. Once again the home defence was found wanting at a set play but, on this occasion, Guadaloupe striker Antoine-Curier, making his third debut for the Lanarkshire club, made no mistake when he headed firmly home from a Crawford corner.
After hearing his players jeered off at the interval, Johnston responded by sending on veteran James Fowler for Rory McKeown. Initially, at least, Killie looked more adventurous and Ibrahim once again quickened the pulse with a venomous drive which goalkeeper Kevin Cuthbert, making his 300th senior appearance, acrobatically turned over in the 50th minute.
However, Accies continued to have the better chances.
Antoine-Curier sent yet another free header wide from a Crawford delivery and James Keatings, under pressure from Darren Barr, lacked composure and screwed his shot from 15 yards wide of Samson’s left-hand post.
Substitute Jon McShane’s poor first touch after replacing Keatings, betrayed him after he had been left with only Samson to beat and Jeroen Tesselaar slid in to nick the ball away from him.
Player-manager Alex Neil brought himself on to add experience and a calming influence to his young side for the final 16 minutes but a Kilmarnock equaliser looked as unlikely as ever.
William Gros headed yards wide from a Sean Clohessy corner but free-kicks increasingly looked the Premiership side’s best bet as they continued to display a complete lack of guile.
Yet Accies should have put a fairer reflection on the scoreline in stoppage time.
Substitute Andy Ryan surged clear on the left and, if he had only looked up, he would have spotted Crawford unmarked on the penalty spot. As it was, he decided to do it all himself and his effort found only the side netting. Few spectators remained when the final whistle blew but they made their anger known to the players and to chairman Michael Johnston..
Kilmarnock: Samson; Clohessy, Barr, Tesselaar, McKeown (Fowler h-t); O’Hara, Irvine, Ibrahim (Heffernan 64), Jacobs; Gros, Stewart (McKenzie 74). Subs not used: Regeuro, Nicholson, McKenzie.
Hamilton Accies: Cuthbert; Gordon, Canning, Devlin, Hendrie; Gillespie (Neil 74); Andreu, MacKinnon, Crawford; Antoine-Curier (Ryan 70), Keatings (McShane 70). Subs not used: Currie, Kilday.