The race for the Championship title remains the tightest in Scotland’s four senior leagues after Hamilton won 3-1 at home to Queen of the South to keep the heat on leaders Dundee.
The Lanarkshire side went into their match with the Doonhamers five points behind the Dark Blues, who had won 2-0 at Raith Rovers on Thursday, and they quickly set about cutting the gap back to two. Louis Longridge fired Accies in front after four minutes when he got on the end of a Mikey Devlin free kick and shot home from ten yards out.
Mikael Antoine-Curier doubled Hamilton’s advantage on ten minutes when he netted from six yards out.
Queens worked themselves back into the game when Iain Russell steered a Michael Paton cross past Blair Currie midway through the first half.
However, Hamilton got on top again after the break, with James Keatings lobbing an effort against the crossbar before they went 3-1 ahead on the hour mark. Keatings was involved again with a fierce shot that Queens goalkeeper Zander Clark could only push into the path of Crawford, who was on hand to slam home from just inside the box.
Accies manager Alex Neil praised his side for exceeding expectations in beginning 2014 as genuine title contenders. “We have responded to a disappointing run by winning two games in a row,” he said.
“Other teams at the top have been pushing on and getting results and it looks like we are back doing that as well.
“At the start of the season, we were after a top-four place and the players deserve credit for changing that expectation to something a bit higher. We now face Falkirk and then Dundee and they could be very big games in our season.”
Queens manager Jim McIntyre said: “We created more openings than Hamilton did, but they were clinical in taking them and we weren’t.”
Falkirk are also involved in the title chase and they kept pace with Dundee by winning 1-0 at ten-man Livingston, and a victory for the Bairns against Hamilton this weekend would take them into second spot.
Both sides had early chances at the Energy Assets Arena before the game turned the way of the visitors on 26 minutes when Conor McGrandles ran on to a Phil Roberts pass in the box and was sent crashing to the ground by Coll Donaldson. The young Livingston player was given his marching orders and Rory Loy stepped up to fire home the resulting penalty.
However, the ten men refused to go down without a fight. Player/assistant manager Mark Burchill was twice denied by goalkeeper Michael McGovern and Callum Fordyce had a header cleared off the line by McGrandles before half-time.
Livingston battled on in the second half and just before the end of the game Will Vaulks did a rescue act on the goalline to keep out a Marc McNulty effort.
Recently-appointed Morton manager Kenny Shiels is finding things tough going as the Greenock side lost for the third time under his control, and for a seventh consecutive game in total, when they went down 2-0 away to Dumbarton.
Shiels gave a debut to new signings David Robertson and Jamie McCormack with former Hibs and Scotland player Garry O’Connor only involved in the warm-up as clearance for his signing has not yet been received from his last club in Russia.
The win lifted the Sons 15 points clear of Morton and it came about when Bryan Prunty netted a controversial penalty after a Chris Turner shot was deemed to have hit the unfortunately-named Reece Hands’ hand. Dumbarton, who gave former Morton captain Mark McLaughlin his debut, grabbed their second goal eight minutes from time when another new boy, on-loan St Johnstone striker Chris Kane, headed home a cross from Colin Nish.