The almighty ruck that is the scramble for places before the Premiership split was almost captured perfectly in this 90 minutes at New Douglas Park yesterday. Just when you think one team has got itself into a good position it all turns on its head and another usurps them.
Hamilton were 1-0 up at the interval and frankly should have been two or three ahead. By the full time whistle however, their frustrated fans’ jeers were raining down on them as Partick Thistle stormed back in the second half and claimed all three points with a late winner from Ryan Edwards.
Martin Canning has had to endure quite a few wounding reverses in the 14 months that he has been Accies manager and this was as sore as any of them. “I thought at half-time we had won the game, we’d played well enough,” he lamented. “I just asked the boys to be brave in the second half, get their foot on the ball and continue to play, but we just didn’t do well enough after the break. The early goal for them after half time rocked us a bit, but that’s part of football – you’re going to concede and you’ve got to be strong enough mentally.”
You would never have seen such a gloomy post-mortem coming after the turbo-charged manner in which his side opened the game. Greg Docherty put them ahead after only ten minutes after some lovely work in the Thistle box by Gramoz Kurtaj. Kurtaj then almost helped himself to one shortly afterwards, then Dougie Imrie stung the palms of Tomas Cerny with a fierce drive and Eamonn Brophy drilled an angled shot home only to see his effort ruled out for offside.
The interval probably came at the wrong time for Canning’s men and within five minutes of the restart they must have been cursing the fact that there had been a pause in the proceedings. It was their turn to be caught cold as Paul Pogba connected with a Steven Lawless cross to beat Michael McGovern and equalise.
With that we had a match that was utterly transformed. “I said to the boys at half time that we had to match their intensity, which we didn’t do in the first 20 minutes,” reflected Thistle boss Alan Archibald. “We had to be a bit more direct, it wasn’t a day for playing it pretty.”
The reshaped game plan came up trumps for the visitors as they began to stretch the Hamilton defence down either flank. Pogba nearly scored a second as he once again found himself with space in the box but the final masterstroke by the Thistle manager was then to withdraw the Frenchman and replace him with the industrious Kris Doolan.
It was the substitute’s determination that set up the winner, his driving run and cross picking out Edwards who smashed it home. “After losing the last three games, a win was everything for us today,” said Archibald. Once again the top six is in his side’s sights.