ALLOA came to New Douglas Park intent on frustrating Hamilton and the howls of anguish from the Accies fans at the full-time whistle will tell you that this was mission accomplished, and then some.
Paul Hartley’s men snatched this one with virtually their first attempt on goal and rode their luck more than once, but you had to admire how they set themselves up to achieve exactly the outcome they were looking for.
It was enough to dislodge Alex Neil’s side from the top of the table as Dundee continued their impressive surge but it also nudges Alloa into a position where a bid for a play-off place is a serious possibility. Hartley may be privately disappointed at losing out on the Inverness Caley Thistle job, but if he were to succeed in doing that with a group of part-time players, his next job interview will not be long in coming.
No one could question his tactical adroitness yesterday as his side made it two wins out of two against the Championship pace-setters. “We changed our system,” admitted Hartley. “It was sprung on them because it was our third hard game in just over a week and we changed personnel as well. What you saw today was a fantastic work ethic and the players deserve great credit.”
Hamilton did not want for application themselves as they set out to get back into winning ways having surrendered their unbeaten home record a couple of weeks previously to Dundee. A combination of some obdurate defending and fine goalkeeping from Scott Bain saw them kept at bay however. Ali Crawford’s surging run and well-struck effort after only five minutes was a prelude of what was to unfold at this stage – his shot clipping the top of the crossbar.
The opening 45 minutes had seen Alloa concentrate so meticulously on containing the hosts that they barely ventured into their opponents’ 18-yard box.
As if moving on to the next stage of their gameplan with metronomic precision, they then took the lead almost immediately after the restart. The Accies rearguard failed to get a corner properly cleared and when the ball was returned into the danger area it found Daryll Meggatt lurking completely unmarked at the far post and with the simplest of tasks to put his side ahead.
Hamilton’s dominance of possession continued pretty much unabated but a sustained burst of pressure on the hour mark which came to nothing just about summed up their day. First Jesus Garcia Tena sent a tantalising delivery across the face of the Alloa goal which found no takers and then in quick succession Darian MacKinnon and Tony Andreu skewed plausible chances off target.
“We did 95 per cent of things right today, but we just didn’t take our chances”, reflected a pensive Neil.
Alloa, meanwhile, threatened to increase the home side’s torment by passing up a couple of decent breakaway opportunities of their own before Bain pulled off a truly outstanding stop by deflecting a shot by Andy Ryan on to his near post. Hartley acknowledged the quality of the save. “He’s the outstanding young goalkeeper in Scotland in my opinion. He’ll not be with us long.”