THESE two sides have passed the league leaders baton between them on a few occasions this season, so it was entirely fitting they should perform the trick over the course of this slow burning 90 minutes.
When Dundee moved ahead through Martin Boyle just before half-time they were heading for the top, but Accies showed commendable spirit in clawing back the deficit courtesy of a header from substitute Mickael Antoine-Curier to regain poll position.
No winner on the day, then, and while Falkirk will have been happy that this draw maintains their flickering hopes of stepping in and claiming the automatic promotion place, it is all going to boil down to whose nerve holds out the best over the concluding four fixtures – and possibly goal difference which currently rests in Accies favour.
“Before the game it was in our hands and we wanted after the game for it still to be in our hands,” remarked the contented Hamilton manager Alex Neil. “I was disappointed we didn’t win the match but when you’re at home and a goal down to Dundee at half time I think if somebody had said to me you’ll get a draw I’d have taken it”.
As well as pitching league leaders Accies against second-placed Dundee, this encounter offered up plenty of other intriguing angles, with the home side seemingly scoring goals for fun over the past couple of months up against a Dark Blues defence for which the description curmudgeonly barely does justice with five shut outs in the preceding six fixtures.
The pattern of the opening stages reflected these stats to a fairly accurate degree, with the hosts taking the initiative and pushing hard for a breakthrough, while the visitors showed a doughty resistance, which suggested that they wouldn’t be giving away any goals cheaply on this occasion either.
For long spells of the first half it turned out to be a suffocating affair with genuine chances severely rationed – but crucially, Dundee still had the nous and clinical edge to make one count. The ball was sent over by Willie Dyer and knocked into the path of Boyle, who controlled it on the edge of the six-yard box before steering it past Kevin Cuthbert. There was a whiff of controversy about it as the Hamilton players claimed for offside, but referee Willie Collum and his assistant were having none of it. The hosts did seem to have grounds for a decent appeal as it appeared that Boyle was played onside by virtue of Lee Kilday lying injured just behind the goal-line but hurried reviews of the rulebooks afterwards confirmed that the match officials called it correctly.
The angst was compounded for the Accies as they knew it was going to be a fiendishly hard task to batter down the visitors’ formidable defensive barrier. It nevertheless injected added urgency into the proceedings and opened up the game after the interval. Boyle was close to adding a second with a blistering shot, while the hosts at least managed to carve out some shooting opportunities, even if they sent them skywards.
Neil decided to shake things up and the arrival from the bench of former Dark Blue Antoine-Curier was predictably greeted with by a chorus of jeers by the large and vociferous visiting support. The trouble with panto villains, of course, is that they do have this habit of living up to their billing. Sure enough, the big striker struck in the 71st minute, nodding in a Louis Longridge cross from close range to his own and his team mates’ glee. It was Dundee’s turn to have a bit of a grumble with Adam Cummins claiming a foul by the Accies substitute, but again it seemed a fair decision.
Dundee manager Paul Hartley was nevertheless none too despondent. “It was frantic – there was so much at stake. We got our noses in front and I didn’t think we were going to give a goal away today, but probably a draw’s a fair result. There’s three teams in it now and it’s an exciting end to the season for sure. We’ve got four games left and all we can do is give it our best shot”.