Louis Moult’s sixth Lanarkshire derby goal of the season sealed a crucial victory for MOtherwell in the relegation clash at the SuperSeal Stadium.
Hamilton are surely sick of the sight of Louis Moult. Motherwell have scored six times against them this season and their leading goalscorer has bagged all of them. Which makes it all the stranger that he was left unmarked to make the decisive intervention here to claim the victory which hoisted them above yesterday’s opponents, who replace them in the play-off position.
The hosts are now three points adrift of their derby rivals – and five points behind ninth-placed Dundee – with only two fixtures remaining and a shoot-out with Falkirk or Dundee United may well decide whether they can extend their stay in the top tier.
Hamilton captain Mikey Devlin was fortunate to remain on the field after launching himself at Elliott Frear to take out the winger as he surged past him. Referee Kevin Clancy immediately reached for a yellow card when a red might have been more appropriate.
Dougie Imrie’s elbow on Carl McHugh did not even merit a caution as the official struggled to keep tabs on this tempestuous affair.
Craig Clay was then inches away from opening the scoring, sidefooting just wide of Remi Matthews’ left-hand post from 15 yards after being teed up by Scott McDonald.
Ali Crawford, whose form has faded badly in recent months, spooned yards over the bar after being picked out by Danny Redmond’s cutback.
The midfielder was booked for a lunge on Chris Cadden as the visitors pressed for the opening goal while McDonald suffered a similar fate after diving in an attempt to earn a penalty. Motherwell skipper Keith Lasley joined the list of offenders when he had his name taken for dissent.
Russell Griffiths made a stunning reflex save to beat away a shot from Alex D’Acol in the 56th minute but bookings continued to outnumber goalmouth incidents.
However, Motherwell finally broke the deadlock midway through the second half. Frear’s free-kick from the far touchline found Moult unmarked and, although his attempt at a header appeared to come off his shoulder, the ball looped over Matthews and under his crossbar.
“We switched off at a set piece and that’s the fifth goal we’ve lost like that in our last three games,” said Martin Canning.
“It was a tight, tense game, just as we expected and you simply can’t switch off like that, especially when there is so little between the teams. But we’re still in the same position – we needed two wins to be safe and that’s still the case.”
David Templeton made his debut for Accies with five minutes remaining but could not help them salvage a point.
He saw one netbound drive deflected over by McHugh and his disappointment was compounded when he was cautioned for a late tackle on McDonald.
“We knew what the consequences were of not picking up a point so this was a huge result for us,” said Motherwell manager Steve Robinson. “This game was all about making sure our fate was in our own hands and now it is.”
Tempers frayed at the end. Devlin had an altercation with an abusive supporter at the final whistle and was right to be unapologetic afterwards.
“We’re giving as much as we can and we care as much as the supporters do; it’s our livelihoods, after all,” he said.
“My dad was involved at the end as well. My mum was there, my sister had come up from London and she has to listen to that directed at her brother. It’s not good enough.
“I’m sorry but I give everything I have for this club, day to day and week to week. I certainly don’t deserve that and nor do the other players. I’m not going to accept that.”