THE Championship title race threw up yet more drama at the weekend as Hamilton regained the initiative from Dundee and third-place Falkirk came roaring back into contention.
Accies, who had relinquished control to the Tayside men the previous weekend, went back to the summit with a 2-1 home win over Alloa as Dundee suffered a surprise 1-0 defeat at relegated Morton.
Accies took an early lead when player/manager Alex Neil, playing his first game in over six months after injury, released Jason Scotland and he shot home. Scotland then set up substitute Andrew Ryan to double Hamilton’s advantage just after the break, before Ross Caldwell’s header set nerves jangling in the final seven minutes. Accies held firm, however.
“The early goal was great, especially as we were facing a side we thought would sit in,” said Neil. “However, Alloa were adventurous. Our use of the ball was not the best in the first half, but we raised the tempo in the second half.”
News of Morton’s goal against Dundee unsettled Accies and Neil said: “Morton’s goal was cheered by the fans but that actually put pressure on the players. They are a young bunch and one error could have cost us. However, the players saw things out and they will learn from that.
“I said there would be twists and turns when we fell behind Dundee last week and there has been. There could be more in the final two games and we will not be getting carried away.”
Alloa manager Barry Smith said: “There was not much between us and we could have taken a point as we were putting them under a lot of pressure at the end. Credit to Hamilton for seeing it out.”
Morton’s win over Dundee came courtesy of a goal from former Hamilton player Dougie Imrie. Nicky Riley missed a chance for the Dens Park side with half an hour gone when he delayed in shooting and Stuart Findlay slid in to clear.
In the second half, substitute Christian Nade looked all set to settle Dundee nerves when he took the ball around Derek Gaston in the home goal only to slide his shot past the post. The decisive moment in the game came with 13 minutes left when Rowan Vine cut the ball into the path of Imrie, who shot high past Kyle Letheren.
Dundee manager Paul Hartley said: “I cannot fault the players for their efforts. However, we missed lots of chances. We will not be giving anything up as the league is there to be won.”
Falkirk, meanwhile, continue to move under the radar after their fifth win in a row, a 2-1 success at home to Raith Rovers, took them within two points of top spot.
Rory Loy and Conor McGrandles scored the Bairns’ goals before Will Vaulks deflected a John Baird shot into his own net to give Rovers hope before half-time. Falkirk manager Gary Holt believes the youthful naivety of his side help them in the last two games. “They don’t know where they’re trying to get to and what they’re trying to achieve. They’re just enjoying playing football so we’ll see where the last two games take us.”
Queen of the South took control of the fourth play-off place by beating closest challengers Dumbarton 3-0 at the Bet Butler Stadium. Iain Russell’s header after 13 minutes gave the Doonhamers the lead and the points were heading to Palmerston after a real moment of end-to-end football. A Chris Mitchell corner for the visitors was cleared to the edge of the Dumbarton box and Mark McLaughlin sent in Chris Kane with a first-time pass.
However, his effort was pushed away by Zander Clark. Queens cleared the loose ball with such distance that Derek Lyle went clean through on the Dumbarton goal and he netted from a tight angle after skipping past Jamie Ewings. Kevin Holt rounded things off with a fierce volley from 25 yards on 67 minutes.
Cowdenbeath have not given up hope of avoiding the relegation play-offs after their 4-0 win over Livingston moved them to within five points of Alloa with two games to play.
Doubles by John Armstrong and Kane Hemmings secured the win for the Blue Brazil, with the defeat ending Livingston’s lingering hopes of being involved in the play-offs at the other end of the table.