ROSS County had to come from behind to win away from home for only the second time this season but there was no doubt that they merited all three points.
Manager Jim McIntyre provided both a motivational half-time speech and influential second-half substitutions to turn this game on its head and leapfrog their opponents into fifth place.
Scorers: Hamilton – Kurtaj (26)′; Ross County – Curran (58′), Murdoch (86′), Boyce (90′)
“We knew we hadn’t played to our level first half,” he said. “We gave away a poor goal and it was important that we showed a reaction.
“The response from the players was excellent. The equalising goal gave us belief: it changed the game for us and the substitutions were excellent as well. They both contributed and gave us that wee kick on when we needed it.
“It’s a satisfying win but we haven’t achieved anything yet. You can see how tight the table is but we knew that we could go above Accies with a win and that was our sole objective.”
This match was a slow-burner: indeed, it was well into the second quarter before the first attempt on target. Accies were responsible and it gave them the lead.
Dougie Imrie’s incisive through ball bisected the County defence and found Carlton Morris in space. The striker could have pulled the trigger himself but selflessly drove the ball across the face of the goal, leaving Gramoz Kurtaj with a tap-in. The German came close to doubling his tally five minutes later, but Scott Fox was alert to his low-angled drive, turning it behind at his near post.
County had contributed little to the first half but they were a different proposition after the interval, displaying a hunger and drive which had been largely absent earlier.
Hibernian target Michael McGovern, a spectator for the bulk of the opening 45 minutes, made two fine saves in the space of a minute, diverting a Martin Woods 20-yarder over the bar and then scrambling away a header from Andrew Davies.
Accies found themselves on the back foot and the equaliser, when it arrived, was fully merited. Jackson Irvine’s shot came back off the underside of the bar but Craig Curran was first to the rebound and his low drive from eight yards gave the goalkeeper no chance.
It was the pivotal moment of the match. County, having seized the initiative, refused to let it go.
They had to wait until four minutes from time, though, before substitute Stewart Murdoch lashed a loose ball high behind McGovern.
Hamilton were utterly deflated and Michael Gardyne, who had just had a goal disallowed for offside, then cut the ball back for Liam Boyce, whose shot took a deflection on its way into the net.
The home support showed their displeasure at the final whistle and little wonder: Accies have not won at New Douglas Park since beating Motherwell in the derby match on 19 September.
It was certainly a defeat which manager Martin Canning took to heart. “The first half was up there in terms of being as well as we’ve played all season,” he said.
“We were excellent and controlled the game completely. We also started the second half in a similar fashion until we lost a poor goal – a cross is knocked back in and they have two attempts, with our players nowhere near them.
“The first effort hits the bar and then they have another go and that’s disappointing. But I still don’t expect us to lose the game from there, given how dominant we had been.”