THIS was supposed to be one for the purists – two sides who love to get the ball on the deck and entertain.
Scorers: Dundee United - Ciftci 17; Fojut 45; Hamilton Academical - Antoine-Curier 28; Andreu 33
But in the end it served up more niggle and nonsense, particularly in a first half where there were four goals, defensive lapses and last ditch clearances – and also two sendings off, caused by ill-tempered posturing and an attempt to cheat the referee en route to an equalising goal.
At the end of it all, Hamilton were sitting top of the league table and the transgressors, Darian MacKinnon and Nadir Ciftci, were left to rue their errors in judgment.
Ciftci had demonstrated all that is good with his game. He was working hard in the opening minutes and served up a chance for Keith Watson to head home at the back post but Martin Canning cleared on the line.
He then opened the scoring in the 17th minute. His neat footwork and willingness to cut in from the right and skip over and through the Hamilton rearguard before calmly rounding the keeper and finding the net, were just a couple of examples of the problems he was posing the
Hamilton back line. But the fact that he was not around to do that throughout the whole game was entirely his own fault.
Both MacKinnon and the United striker were booked for a coming together in the 27th minute. It’s safe to say that there was a feeling of injustice and it would cost them both dearly.
Still riled, when the Hamilton player set up Dougie Imrie whose sclaffed shot was not dealt with by Morris and fell kindly to Mickael Antoine-Curier to slam home, MacKinnon’s reaction lacked class and sense as he celebrated wildly towards the opposition technical area before savouring the moment right in front of Ciftci. That example of ungentlemanly conduct was caught by the officials and it earned him his second booking in just over a minute, leaving his mates to face the repercussions and the management teams in heated debate.
Neil felt the referee could have been more lenient with the first incident but admitted he would review the footage of the second one tomorrow and decide on how to punish MacKinnon for his behaviour in the latter.
Despite the fact the game was now laced with a real edge, neither side seemed to lose sight of the fact that victory could take them to the top of the table and there was a determination to seize the moment. In the 33rd minute it was Hamilton who disregarded their one-man disadvantage to take the lead. Substitute Stephen Hendrie played in Anthony Andreu and his shot trundled under the body of the shame-faced keeper.
“I think it was a frustrating afternoon and their goals summed it up,” said United boss Jackie McNamara. They were described as schoolboyish by McNamara but the game was still there to be won and, although he said it was now a case of ifs and buts, they would have stood a better chance of doing that with Ciftci.
The desperation to get his side back on level pegging manifested itself in the wrong way, though, using his hand to slap the ball into the net with five minutes of the first half remaining. There was no fooling referee John Beaton, however, and he chalked off the goal and showed the striker a red card for his cheating. It means Ciftci will have to sit out next Sunday’s first Dundee
derby of the season at Dens Park,
and his manager was none too pleased. He was more impressed with the reaction of those left on the field.
Like Hamilton before them, United responded positively to the sending off and got the equaliser in the 45th minute when Gary Mackay-Steven supplied Jaroslaw Fojut and the big centre back headed into the net.
At the start of the second half they could have taken the lead when the same player tried to cash in on Michael McGovern’s waywardness and loop a header over the keeper and just under the bar, but Canning again got back in the nick of time to head it clear.
These guys went into the match separated only by goal difference, and after a match in which they scored two goals apiece, each had to soldier on with ten men and ended the game with a point each, the only thing between them in the Premiership table was Inverness Caledonian Thistle, who slipped to second place after their defeat to Partick Thistle and now sit just one goal behind Alex Neil’s men – and two goals better off than the Tannadice side. They know the season has a long way to go but they are savouring the moments.
“The time you get credit is when you put in a good performance and win games and we are doing that,” said Neil. “So we are getting the credit we deserve. We are still underdogs but that doesn’t mean we can’t have success.”