THERE’s no doubt where the local bragging rights in Lanarkshire lie at present as high-flying Hamilton dumped struggling Motherwell for the second time in a matter of days – ensuring the top-flight new boys go into October in second spot.
Andreu 31; Crawford 45, 90; Curier 62 pen
It’s the stuff of dreams for Accies manager Alex Neil, but all the ingredients for a painful season appear to be in place for Stuart McCall who for the first time since taking the helm at Fir Park is watching his team come apart at the seams.
When Hamilton overturned a two-goal deficit against Hibs last season to win the play-off which secured their Premiership place, much was made of how dismally Hibs had performed. While that was certainly true, it was unfair on an excellent Hamilton side who are proving all their doubters wrong.
They certainly opened this game full of zest with Anthony Andreu seeing his early shot parried to safety and Stephen Hendrie shaving the bar with a fizzing strike from 25 yards. With Motherwell looking like they had granite in their boots, their neighbours dominated entirely. Daniel Redmond was next to be denied, Dan Twardzik getting down to clutch the midfielder’s low drive.
So relentless was the pressure was that anything other than an Accies breakthrough seemed unimaginable, and it duly came after the half hour mark when Zaine Francois-Angol made a meal of dealing with a straightforward ball, and when the ball broke to Andreu he coolly stroked home.
It was a goal not even the staunchest home fan could have grudged such had been the battering their team had taken. Everything that was good about the visitors, such as their passing, pace and movement, was very wrong with Motherwell who struggled to be good enough to be labelled abject.
Michael McGovern in the Accies goal could have spent a more fruitful 45 minutes watching the Ryder Cup such was his lack of involvement. That they went a full half of a local derby without registering anything approaching a shot on goal says everything about the Steelmen.
If McCall was looking forward to getting his troops in at the break only a single goal behind, his half-time sermon was ripped to pieces when his defence again capitulated seconds from the break. Ali Crawford ran through the heart of a near non-existent rearguard before rolling an ice-cool finish past the advancing Twardzik.
McCall rang the changes at the interval and the introduction of John Sutton seemed to work, with McGovern having to climb down off his hammock and dirty his gloves for the first time. Sutton twice came close and Fraser Kerr saw his header acrobatically held.
However, any hopes of a revival evaporated just after the hour when Accies scored a controversial third. No question Loius Longridge was fouled by Fraser Kerr, but whether it was inside the area is the contentious part. There was nothing iffy, though, about Mickael Antoine-Curier’s finish.
It was a sickener for Motherwell, and if the suffering home support thought this was the end of their agony there was to be one final twist of the knife. Crawford ran in from the angled completely unchallenged and struck empathetic injury-time finish.
McCall labelled his team’s defending as “schoolboy”, and admitted his team had been outplayed all over the pitch. He said; “We got dominated in every area. We got outfought, gave away the first two goals and overall it is a hard one to take.”
Neither the margin of victory of his team’s second position in the table was forcing Alex Neil to get carried away with things as he insisted his young guns would continue to work hard. He said: “We could have won by more and were excellent in everything we did, but although we are in a good place right now we know this doesn’t always last in football so we will work hard to try and maintain this good form.”