HAVING squandered a two-goal lead, Hamilton were entering the final seconds of stoppage time trailing their visitors and staring down the barrel of a third successive defeat. Thankfully for the hosts, their last-minute miracle man came through for them once again.
Scorers: Hamilton - MacKinnon, 22; Redmond, 23; Andreu, 90; Partick Thistle - McMillan, 32; Craigen, 68; Elliot, 73
With what turned out to be the last kick of the game, Anthony Andreu swivelled from 20 yards out and sent a powerful drive into the bottom corner of the Partick Thistle net.
The Frenchman’s effort may not have matched the importance of his stoppage-time goal at Easter Road in May – a strike which helped Accies gain promotion to the top flight – but having thrown away their early advantage it was crucial for team confidence as they look to remain at the right end of the Premiership table.
“It was important we didn’t concede another defeat, particularly when you’re up by a 2-0 scoreline,” said Accies boss Alex Neil. “But when you don’t defend well, which was uncharacteristic of us, then that’s going to happen.
“We didn’t play like we have been doing recently. Thankfully Tony has come through with a wonder strike.”
There was absolutely nothing in the opening 20 minutes to suggest this match would turn into a six-goal thriller. The only penetrative pass from either side was an ill-advised Danny Redmond header which almost put Kris Doolan through on goal. The striker evaded the advancing Michael McGovern but couldn’t recover the ball before it was cleared for a corner.
In fact, it would be fair to say that Hamilton opened the scoring with the first piece of coherent attacking play. Ali Crawford’s pass found Dougie Imrie who offered a first-time lay-off into the path of Darian MacKinnon. The Accies midfielder strode onto the ball, took one touch to steady himself and then fired into the far corner.
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They doubled their advantage two minutes later. Thistle’s defence was all over the place as Mikael Antonie Curier was allowed to control a pass 18 yards out before floating the ball over the head of Jordan McMillan for the incoming Redmond to volley past Scott Fox.
Accies hadn’t conceded a home goal since the season’s opening day so it seemed inconceivable that Thistle would make their way back into the match, but they didn’t even have to wait ten minutes before they’d pulled a goal back. Christie Elliott’s cross from the right was allowed to find McMillan running in at the back post and his first-time effort found the back of the net via the aid of a deflection.
That gave Thistle the impetus to get themselves back on level terms but they didn’t have the means of doing so until Alan Archibald introduced Higginbotham at the expense of striker Kris Doolan. It was a switch which drew the ire of the away support but which certainly paid off for the visitors.
“I know how they feel when they see their team a goal down and a midfielder coming on for a forward,” Thistle manager Alan Archibald admitted after the match. “But I just felt that Doolan wasn’t getting any protection, and we know that Kallum can be a handful when he plays up there and so it proved.”
With Higginbotham’s movement causing problems, huge gaps began to appear in the Hamilton rearguard. James Craigen was the first to take advantage as he found the far corner after being sent through by Steven Lawless’s through ball, and Christie Elliott followed up four minutes later as he drifted in behind the back four to calmly slot past McGovern.
With Hamilton offering little in attack it looked certain to be the winning goal before Andreu’s late leveller. The draw knocks Hamilton from the top of the table but keeps morale high as the club look to carefully navigate through their first period of top-flight adversity.
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