WHEN Inverness rolled up at New Douglas Park on the opening day of the season and went away with a comfortable two-goal victory under their belts, many were predicting testing times ahead for Hamilton.
Hamilton - 0
Inverness Caley Thistle - 2
Gillespie og 53; Ross 76
The sense of déjà vu didn’t just apply to the scoreline yesterday – this reverse represents Accies’ fourth straight defeat since the departure of Alex Neil, and for his now officially confirmed successor Martin Canning it’s certainly not proving to be the easiest of baptisms in the managerial game.
To be fair, this wasn’t a performance without spirit or energy from Accies and they fully matched up to the high-flying visitors in a closely contested first half.
However, as soon as Inverness got in front just after the break, courtesy of an own-goal by the unfortunate Grant Gillespie, there always looked like no way back. So it proved, with Nick Ross adding a second to ensure all three points went up to the Highlands again.
“Their first goal sums up how it’s going for us at the moment,” insisted Canning. “Any break that can go against us does go against us. I thought in the first half we were excellent. But at this level the first goal’s crucial against a good team like Inverness as they can then sit in and hit us on the break and that’s what they did”.
The new Accies management team did not want for support from the stands yesterday, with the club’s gesture of cutting the admission price to 10p for this game being handsomely rewarded by a near capacity crowd.
They witnessed an intriguing rather than entertaining opening 45 minutes, with it taking until just before half time before a genuinely testing shot on target was recorded, courtesy of Tony Andreu’s well-struck dipping volley which flew straight into the arms of Dean Brill. Otherwise there was lots of thoughtful, tidy possession but neither side could find that final ball that would give the likes of Andreu or Billy McKay a plausible chance of adding to their impressive hauls for the season.
“They were the better team early on, but I thought we looked solid enough,” reflected the happy Inverness manager John Hughes. “It was just a case of getting the lads in at half-time and changing the shape and the tactics a little bit. In the second half we were much better – we scored two goals and kept a clean sheet and if it wasn’t for their goalkeeper we could have had another couple.”
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His men certainly upped the pace after the break. McKay immediately got himself a sniff of goal but his effort was well blocked by Michael McGovern. The Hamilton goalkeeper must have also thought he had done his job a short while later as Graeme Shinnie dashed into the box and unleashed a powerful shot, but as it ricocheted off his palms it struck the onrushing Gillespie and bounced into the net for a bizarre own goal.
Accies’ attempts to respond were fitful and, aside from a few threatening set pieces, they never looked like finding a way back into the game.
The visitors were now running with machine-like precision, with Josh Meekings and McKay coming close to doubling their lead before Ross eventually did, latching on to Ross Draper’s pass before burying it beyond McGovern.