Hearts 2 Stewart pen 54; Santana 55 Hamilton Academical 1 Paixao 61
TWO goals in two minutes killed off a game that, to be honest, until that point had rarely been bursting with life anyway.
In a week when referees have been in the spotlight Alan Muir made another decision that will be scrutinised in the coming days, awarding Hearts a 54th-minute penalty after a tangling of legs. It infuriated Hamilton manager Billy Reid, who claimed there had been a series of judgment errors by the officials in the build-up to the spot-kick.
"In the build-up (Jose] Goncalves controlled the ball with his arm. The assistant referee on the stand side was getting involved in quite a lot of incidents early on but for some reason didn't put his flag up.
"They then took the free-kick five yards in front of where they should have and it led to the penalty. Their player turned our defender but he's then knocked it out of the park. I don't think he was in control of the ball and he's gone over the top of our player so the referee gave a penalty."
Soft or not, it was enough to give the home side the advantage. Michael Stewart was the man who slammed it past Tomas Cerny and it was one of the few times in the game he was able to make an impression, given Hamilton's dogged midfield, and the performances of James McArthur and Marco Piaxao in particular.
If that lead was slightly unfair on Hamilton, who had matched the capital side for most of what was a poor first half, Billy Reid's men only had themselves to blame for allowing them to stretch it around 60 seconds later. A corner in by Craig Thomson wasn't cleared and when it landed for Suso Santana on the post, he sneaked it in.
It was an amazing turnaround in a match that had lacked any real goalmouth incident or indeed any kind of spark. In fact, if this was an advert for summer football, no one would be buying into it. The sun shone and the pitch was in perfect condition but unfortunately the technical slickness and panache were still absent.
Hearts could not accumulate enough consecutive passes to constitute a positive passage of play and Hamilton may have edged it in a congested midfield but could do little up front.
Both teams started the match locked together on four points each from their first five SPL games, the hosts boasting the marginally better goal difference. And while Hamilton's injuries are well-documented, Hearts had a few late omissions. Lee Wallace and Gary Glen were still not 100 per cent fit and Ruben Palazuelos had a sickness bug.
All that meant that Casba Laszlo was forced into giving David Witteveen a start and the Austrian player did nothing other than win the penalty and squander another great chance late on.
Much of a muchness for the opening half an hour, the first real chance at goal only materialised in the 33rd minute and it fell to Hearts. Thomson whipped in a corner and found Goncalves at the back post but the full-back's header crashed back off the bar. Four minutes later, Stewart fouled James Wesolowski 25 yards out and Richard Hastings' set-piece, having taken just a minimal deflection, soared just off target.
Mikael Antoine-Curier was the man leading the Hamilton line, but when he broke through in the 38th minute the finish was again lacking. It was not as big a missed opportunity as the one Santana spurned in a breakaway which left himself and Driver two on two with the visiting defence, the Spaniard holding onto the ball too long.
It was Santana who had the first shot of the second half but Cerny dived to his left to hold. It was the keeper's only noteable input at that stage and when he was next involved it was to pick the ball out the back of his net. The two quick goals allowed Hearts to relax slightly after that, but perhaps too much.
Thomson, who had put in another laudable performance switched off in the 61st minute and Piaxao made the most of the error, robbing him to drive in on goal and send a low strike past Janos Balogh. It made for a nervier finish than Laszlo would have wanted having grabbed that quick double but they did hold on to make it four successive home wins in all competitions. As the Hearts manager said afterwards, personnel problems mean they either have to "play successful or play nice". Doing both is not an option at the moment, he insists. Yesterday was not nice to watch but it was successful.
MAN OF THE MATCH
No one stood out in this one. Although Hamilton's goalscorer Marco Piaxao, Craig Thomson and Suso Santana were impressive in spells, the man who maybe looked most consistent was James McArthur.
Hamilton have still not won on their league travels this season and are now detached from Hearts who have moved three points clear of them.
Yet again it's the man in the middle. One penalty was given which served as the foundation of Hearts' victory but no one in the Hamilton ranks was convinced.