ST JOHNSTONE had to fight hard for their place in the quarter-finals of the League Cup and, although their victory was merited, the scoreline slightly flattered the Premiership side.
Scorers: St Johnstone - May (4, 90), Edwards (86)
Stevie May had started Saturday’s defeat at Parkhead on the bench but manager Tommy Wright’s decision to reinstate him proved to be a wise one when he opened the scoring in the visitors’ first attack.
It was, in truth, a poor goal for Accies, who boast the best defensive record in the Championship, to lose. David Mackay’s cross was nodded on by Steven McLean for May, who scored 29 times while on loan to Accies last season, to send a looping header back across Kevin
Cuthbert and inside his right-hand post.
As the home side attempted to regroup Jon McShane became the first player to be cautioned, for a late lunge on Gary McDonald. Winger Tony Andreu came close in the 17th minute with a curling left-foot shot from 18 yards which struck the outside of the far post.
The sides were fairly evenly matched and, with both sides eager to attack, there was no shortage of incident.
Another former Accies player, Nigel Hasselbaink, sprung his former team’s offside trap with a perfectly-weighted through ball for McLean.
A second goal seemed inevitable but Cuthbert spread himself to block the striker’s shot and, from an acute angle, May drove the rebound wide.
Frazer Wright only just failed to get on the end of a cutback from Hasselbaink, while Andreu came close again on the stroke of half-time with a 20-yarder which flashed inches past with Mannus caught on his heels.
However, if Saints had just edged the first period, they largely dominated after the break. They created little more than a series of half-chances but that was still more than their hosts could manufacture.
The visitors kept the ball well and Darian MacKinnon’s yellow card for a late tackle on Wright was surely born of frustration.
Substitute Andy Ryan was the next Accies player to have his name taken, for a foul on Wright which only the match officials appeared to have spotted.
In a move reminiscent of the early opener, McLean touched on a Mackay delivery for Hasselbaink but the Dutchman, six yards out from goal, was off balance and failed to work the goalkeeper.
However, as if to emphasise the precariousness of Saints’ position, Hamilton defender Mikey Devlin went agonisingly close with a volley from a Ziggy Gordon cross.
Mackay then took one for the team, accepting his yellow card without complaint for taking out Ryan as he burst past him.
Devlin saw his header from Ali Crawford’s corner clawed away by Mannus at his near post as Accies stepped up their late onslaught.
It was to no avail. Devlin, at the other end, attempted in vain to pull back Gwion Edwards as he raced into the penalty area.
Referee John Beaton played the advantage rule and, when goalkeeper Cuthbert failed to gather the loose ball, the substitute reacted quickly to prod it into the net.
There remained just enough time for May to add his sixth goal of the season with a superb swerving strike from 25 yards.