Hamilton Accies took a significant step towards securing their fifth successive season in the Ladbrokes Premiership, defeating fellow strugglers Ross County thanks to a strong second half performance.
Goals from Dougie Imrie and David Templeton moved Martin Canning’s men five points clear of Partick Thistle in the relegation playoff spot with just three games to play. The team who have defied expectations time after time to remain among the elite of Scottish football look set to do so for another campaign. As for County, they stay rooted to the bottom of the table and time is fast running out for the newly-appointed management team of Stuart Kettlewell and Steven Ferguson to rescue their top flight status.
While unsatisfied with the team’s display, especially in the second half, Kettlewell did point to an incident in the first 17 seconds which would have changed the entire complexion of the game. Referee Bobby Madden decided on leniency when Darian MacKinnon caught Jamie Lindsay in the head with his boot as he went for a bouncing ball. Even Accies boss Martin Canning admitted his enforcer could have seen red on another day, while Kettlewell was unequivocal in his response.
“I would like someone to explain to me how it’s not a red card. If that isn’t endangering an opponent, then I don’t know what is,” he said.
Both teams adopted a 3-5-2 formation with a pair of natural defensive midfielders in the central trio, which meant for a first half with little creativity. Half chances were shared, with the away side forcing the majority, while Templeton went close from distance.
After Alex Schalk fired an early second-half effort into the side netting, County proceeded to shoot themselves in the foot, giving away a penalty kick from a routine set-piece. This time there were no complaints as Marcus Fraser pulled back Lewis Ferguson, allowing Imrie to beat Scott Fox from the spot.
The goal gave Accies a lift while County rarely threatened for the rest of the contest. The home side were helped by the introduction of Danny Redmond as a sub for Ferguson. The midfielder was the best player on the park in the final 30 minutes and it was his assist for Templeton that finished the game as a contest. The attacker was given time and space in the penalty box to control Redmond’s through ball and fire beyond Fox.
Marios Ogkmpoe knocked an Imrie cross wide just a few moments later, but there was never a feeling Accies were going to rue the miss. The support were even treated to the sight of a clearly injured Georgios Sarris hobbling about up front for the final few minutes as Accies had used all of their substitutes. The defender’s willingness to brave the pain summed up the hosts’ renowned never-say-die attitude.