Crawford escaped with just a booking from referee Steven McLean for a studs-up foul on Hearts winger Jamie Walker in stoppage time of the 3-3 draw at the SuperSeal Stadium.
Neilson was highly critical of McLean afterwards, accusing the official of failing to do his job properly by not dismissing Crawford for a dangerous challenge which he claimed could have broken Walker’s leg.
It was uncharacteristic of Crawford, who is more renowned for his technical and attacking abilities as he displayed with the stunning free-kick for Hamilton’s first goal of the match. But the 25-year-old accepts he got off lightly when McLean made his judgment on the incident.
“I’ve got the ball but it was a dodgy one and when the ref ran over I thought the worst,” said Crawford.
“I could have been sent off but he gave me a yellow card. If Hearts had gone up the park and scored a winner at that stage, then it’s my fault, so I had to make a challenge and take one for the team.”
Crawford made his 200th starting appearance for Accies on Monday, his success with the South Lanarkshire club vindication of his self-belief which remained undimmed despite being rejected as a youngster by Hearts.
“I came to Hamilton when Hearts let me go when I was 15 because they said I was too small,” he said.
“When you looked at their team on Monday night, it was full of big people and that’s obviously the way they want to go. But I don’t think my height has held me back in my career. It feels like I’ve been at Hamilton forever now, but to get 200 starts is great for me.
“I felt I went out and expressed myself on Monday night, which is what I always try to do, and hopefully bigger things will come in the future.”