THEY were not a team that most tipsters had at the top of their lists when contenders for the Championship title were being discussed but Hamilton Accies have earned the right to be taken seriously now.
This hard-fought victory at the home of a Falkirk side who are themselves being talked about as genuine promotion material made it four wins out of four for Alex Neil’s side and capped off a memorable week in which they also claimed the scalp of Kilmarnock in the League Cup.
The last time the Lanarkshire side enjoyed as impressive a start to a campaign back in 2007 they were crowned First Division champions, so the omens are there.
This was ultimately a tense, nervy affair between two young sides with the billing of first versus second hanging heavily over them and frankly not much will linger in the memory apart from the sheer excellence of the winning strike by Accies’ Ali Crawford, who curled an absolute beauty past Michael McGovern from 25 yards. This standout moment arrived only minutes after Mickael Antoine-Curier had restored parity, with Jay Fulton having earlier given the Bairns what looked like a crucial advantage just after the break.
Somewhat perversely, given the way the match unfolded, Hamilton probably played their better football in the opening 45 minutes when the movement of James Keating and Antoine-Curier stretched the Falkirk defence uncomfortably on several occasions and midfielder Grant Gillespie had two decent chances, one flicked away by McGovern and the other which he just simply miscued. All the more reason then for Neil to be happy that his men staged such a pulsating recovery after going into arrears.
“I thought we were the better team in the first half, then we started a bit slowly after half-time and they got their goal, which was disappointing. But then I thought the character of the boys showed up really well, particularly bearing in mind we had had a very tough game in midweek”, he said. “The second goal from Ali was just a wonder goal.”
For all that, the hosts must have thought they had done the hard part in coming through a caution-laced first half and then for Fulton to have struck within minutes of the restart with a free kick that somehow snaked its way through the Hamilton defence and past Kevin Cuthbert. “We seemed really nervous and we asked them to go out and express themselves in the second half,” said a philosophical Gary Holt, the Falkirk manager, afterwards.
“We did that, we got ourselves ahead, created more chances and we were in control.
“But football’s football, if you don’t kill teams off this is what can happen”.
Holt’s men did have some decent efforts in the opening 45 minutes, with a Stephen Kingsley free kick going narrowly wide and Rory Loy having a go with a couple of deflected shots. Perhaps the crucial moment however was at 1-0 up when Fulton had a chance to add another as he surged into the box but was denied by an immensely brave block at his feet by Cuthbert. Just when they needed it most Accies then conjured up the sort of predatory swoops that they had hinted at earlier in the game. A piercing through-ball from Darian MacKinnon put Antoine-Curier clear and he was his clinical best as he advanced into the box to beat McGovern. The hosts and their fans were only just coming to terms with that one when Crawford struck with his majestic finish to turn matters on their head.
The proceedings opened up properly after this with both sides giving it a go and and Falkirk did come close to restoring parity when Phil Roberts burst clear, only to be foiled by a one-handed block by Cuthbert, who ultimately deserved as many of the plaudits as Crawford for his role in preserving Accies’ 100 per cent record.