Hamilton Academical 0-1 Dundee United: Goodwillie gets United out of jail
• Six appeal: David Goodwillie is congratulated by team-mates after scoring in his sixth SPL game in a row. Photograph: SNS Group
This was a game of two halves. The first lasted for 70 minutes and consisting largely of listless dross. The second was signalled by the arrival of bad boy David Goodwillie from the substitutes' bench and was a time of controversy, drama and the frenetic activity that culminated in the winning goal with just ten minutes to go.
Controversy seems to follow Goodwillie wherever he goes. In a week when he spent a day and a half in police custody after a night out in Glasgow on Tuesday night went wrong, it was fitting that the striker - who Dundee United manager Peter Houston says "has been in a couple of mishaps and now needs to screw the nut" - not only scored the goal, but was selected for the after-match drugs test.
That goal came when Keith Watson crossed deep from the right wing to the back post where Goodwillie deftly controlled the ball and fired under Tomas Cerny. Given what had gone before, it was always likely to be the only goal, yet even Hamilton had been given a shot of adrenaline by the late substitutions, and with normal time almost up Damian Casalinuovo's screaming shot from the edge of the penalty box smacked off the very top of the upright with Dusan Pernis well beaten.
It was a frenzied finale which bore little resemblance to what Houston called a "dour, dour" game, and which Hamilton manager Billy Reid agreed was "a poor spectacle". Dundee United have struggled on the road and Accies have had trouble buying a win at home, so this was never going to be a feast of football. Until Goodwillie's arrival, a game that was characterised by sloppy passes, missed tackles and miscued crosses looked odds-on to end as a goalless draw.
It had, misleadingly, started off with a bang. Just two minutes into the game, Keith Watson tried to shepherd a speculative ball out for a goal kick when Marco Paixao picked his pocket and curled in a lovely cross which Dougie Imrie headed in from close range for what looked like the opener, only for the linesman to raise his flag as soon as the ball hit the back of the net, much to the Hamilton players' fury.
That, though, was a cruel false dawn. What followed was a protracted bout of trench warfare without any shots being fired. At times it looked as if these two teams could have played for a week and still remained goalless. It is literally true to say that there were more shots on goal in the half-time kick around between the club's under-six team than there were from their elders.
In fact, the only shots in the first half were speculative efforts from David and Scott Robertson, Danny Cadamerteri and Sean Dillon, but none unduly bothered Cerny. Hamilton were having even more trouble carving out chances, with Flavio Paixao's long-range shot just past the half-hour mark the first time Accies had managed to threaten United.
It was, in fairness, a horribly slippery pitch, but even that couldn't completely explain the inability of both sides to string together enough passes to threaten either goal. Even more of a factor were two well-organised and no-nonsense defences well marshalled by Garry Kenneth for the visitors and Mark McLaughlin for the Accies.
For much of the second half, it was business as usual, although the pairing of Prince Buaben and Morgaro Gomis did begin to produce some momentum down the left. In fact it was Buaben who had begun to threaten in the moments before Goodwillie's arrival. He'd already had one overhead shot when Goodwillie and Jon Daly made their entrance on 70 minutes, and the first thing Buaben did was to put Daly clean through on goal with a fine ball, which the Ghanaian followed moments later with a driven shot that Cerny, scrambling sharply to his right, did well to parry.
But if Buaben was doing well, the crowd's ire was directed at Goodwillie, partly because of the player's spot of off-the-field bother in midweek.
When the midfielder's number flashed up with just over 20 minutes to go, the increasingly restless crowd at New Douglas Park woke from its torpor.
The crowd's antipathy towards the man in the canary-yellow boots was richly deserved. Goodwillie's social life may give Houston headaches, but the forward has scored in each of his last six outings in the SPL and now has eight goals in ten games, and from the moment he crossed the whitewash, he was a constant threat. More importantly, somehow his presence galvanised his whole team.
For the remaining 20 minutes, the Dundee United machine clicked into another gear, with Goodwillie contesting the ball in midfield, pinging passes in all directions and arguing with the referee.
Most of all, though, he was winning the game. By doing so, he moved United to fourth in the table and ensured that Hamilton stay uncomfortably close to the mire.
Hasselbaink (65) Gillespie (70)
MAN OF THE MATCH
David Goodwillie (Dundee United)
His arrival had already completely transformed this game before his goal.
That disallowed goal. Billy Reid insisted the ball had not gone out of play.
Referee: Calum Murray. Attendance: 2,456
S Robertson (89)
D Robertson (70) Cadamarteri (70)
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