Hamilton 2-1 Dundee: Hamilton back on track

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ON AT weekend when boxing is potentially threatening to take centre stage this game decided to throw in its own bit of preliminary jousting as a taster. A nerve-wracking finale saw a bit of a stooshie break out in front of Dundee’s dugout and the visitors’ Gary Harkins pick up a second yellow card followed by the inevitable red while sitting on the bench.

Scorers: Hamilton - Andreu (3) Antoine-Curier (14); Dundee - Stewart (61)

Hamilton's Tony Andreu (left) celebrates having put his side 1-0 ahead. Picture: SNS

Hamilton's Tony Andreu (left) celebrates having put his side 1-0 ahead. Picture: SNS

It was all the more remarkable since earlier on, to continue the boxing analogy, this encounter might have been stopped as a contest, so far ahead were Hamilton in almost every department. Two goals ahead in under 15 minutes, they were in cruise control but somehow they allowed the visitors to pull one back through Greg Stewart to put everyone on edge.

Few could disagree with Accies player-manager Alex Neil’s bemusement afterwards. “I didn’t think the game should have ended up that tightly,” he insisted. “In the first half we more than merited a 2-0 lead and it could have been more. We didn’t get that third goal though and when they go up the park and score a goal you’re then scared of losing what you’ve got and it gives them momentum. But over the 90 minutes I thought we were well worth our win”.

Dundee manager Paul Hartley didn’t even try to argue with that assertion. “We were well short today and off the pace,” he reflected. “The second half was a bit better, but overall I’m really disappointed with the performance”.

In the build-up to this game Neil had made a point of highlighting the importance of getting the first goal in often claustrophobic and tight Premiership matches and his players were definitely on message yesterday. Following a poorly cleared corner, Grant Gillespie sent over an impeccably measured diagonal cross for Mikey Devlin to nod into the path of the onrushing Tony Andreu, who directed it beyond Scott Bain after only three minutes.

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There was a similarity in the manner in which the Dundee rearguard was prised open again a short while later with another precision cross, this time from Stephen Hendrie, picking out former Dens Park favourite Mikael Antoine Curier. His volleyed first-time connection wasn’t quite in the Marco van Basten class, but the speed at which it was executed seemed to wrong-foot Bain who got a hand to it but only succeeded in palming it into his own net.

The dominant Accies sought to repeat the dose at the start of the second half, once again launching a series of lightning breaks that produced yet more hair-raising moments for Bain and his colleagues. There wasn’t much hint of Dundee getting a foothold in the game at this point, but after Hartley had quickly introduced all three substitutes he got an immediate dividend when Stewart sent a wickedly swerving shot beyond Michael McGovern.

This unforeseen twist in turn triggered what would earlier have been regarded as an improbably tense closing half hour or so to the game. The hosts continued carve out the better chances but there always lingered that possibility that Dundee might somehow snatch another. Stewart just about did precisely that with another awkward shot that McGovern did well to smother.

By the end it seemed to become too much for even the experienced heads to handle. Neil, making a rare playing appearance collapsed with cramp, while Harkins having been substituted with a yellow card to his name collected an ignominious second for getting into a needless tangle with Accies’ Jason Scotland. It certainly added a bit of heat to an otherwise chilly afternoon.

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