LOCAL bragging rights and a place in the top half of the table were Hamilton’s rich reward for a Lanarkshire derby win over rivals Motherwell, which was far easier and way more convincing than the scoreline suggests.
Had the home team been more positive they could have won by more, such at times was the chasm in quality, attitude and aspirations to play on the front foot.
Hamilton manager Martin Canning, who had to contend with Jesus Garcia Tena missing out due to being delayed in traffic congestion, admitted that in a derby a win was the important thing, but felt his team could have had more. He said: “You take any win in a derby, but we were brave, passed the ball well, controlled the game, deserved to win and could have scored a couple more.”
This wasn’t a view shared by Ian Baraclough, the Motherwell manager, who said: “I couldn’t see us losing the game and the difference was the way we defended the goal. We should have had at least a point, we need to be more ruthless at both ends.”
Straight from kick-off Hamilton were the better team by some margin with Ali Crawford and Grant Gillespie enjoying time and space in the engine room to pull the strings with some clever angled passing. However, for all their dominance of the football they struggled to prise open a visiting team happy to sit in and look to hit on the counter-attack.
On such breakaways Motherwell looked initially dangerous, and it was they who created the best and indeed only presentable goal sightings of the opening half-hour. Theo Robinson should have done better than shoot into the arms of Michael McGovern when picked out by a Lionel Ainsworth cutback, and soon after the same player lofted his finish over the bar from the edge of the area.
Accies’ movement and use of the ball were causing Motherwell to defend deeply in numbers as they poked and prodded to limited effect, although there was a sense they were starting to find cracks with Gramoz Kurtaj beginning to drop off the front to problematic ends. The closest they came during an opening half they dominated was a thumping left-foot drive by Crawford, which cracked off the bar with Well goalkeeper Connor Ripley a beaten man.
Canning’s main concern during the break would have been his team’s failure to make tell their control of the game, especially as Motherwell had shown enough fleeting glimpses on the break to suggest that a continued inability to put chances away could come back to haunt Accies. They again started the brighter, Gillespie this time coming within inches courtesy of a dipping volley, swiftly followed by Kurtaj rifling in a shot Ripley had to deal with.
The longer Accies went without finding the net the stronger was the almost palpable sense of foreboding engulfing New Douglas Park every time the visitors sprang forward. On the hour mark Robinson again came close, this time only the merest of deflections sending the forward’s shot past the post.
This chance aside it was all one-way traffic as Accies continued to toil for the breakthrough despite opportunities like the one Crawford slashed over from 12 yards at the end of a good passing move.
Eventually, however, the dominance told with 18 minutes to play, Dougie Imrie rising higher than his far taller marker to meet an Antons Kurakins cross and beat Ripley with a textbook header into the far corner.
Still the pressure didn’t relent, and only a smart Ripley stop kept out Greg Docherty’s strike soon after as Accies went for the killer second.
That there was little by way of a Motherwell response in terms of performance or approach says a lot about a team who in the heat of a derby when a bit of fire and snarl is required, posted what amounted to a flat-lining performance that delivered what it deserved.