Motherwell defender Peter Hartley had an afternoon to forget at Fir Park. The burly centre-back was cautioned after conceding a penalty kick, gifted Hamilton the goal which gave them the lead and compounded his errors by shoving Hamilton captain Dougie Imrie violently to the ground from behind after the game, earning a straight red card which will rule him out of the Scottish Cup tie between the clubs immediately after the winter break.
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“I didn’t see what happened at the end so we move on,” said Imrie. “We came here to do our job and, if they have anything to say, that’s up to them. I’ve no comment to make on that.
“We’re entitled to go and celebrate with our fans at the end and that’s all I was doing. Listen, I could go into a million things but let’s not make it silly. We got what we came for.”
Yet, for almost half of this feisty affair, it did not look as though that would be the case. As if inspired by the pre-match tribute to Phil O’Donnell, the midfielder who collapsed and died after suffering a heart attack in a game against Dundee United at Fir Park on this weekend in 2007, Motherwell tore into their local rivals straight from the kick-off.
Hamilton, missing the suspended Ionnas Skondras and the sacked Georgios Sarris from their back three, were the definition of disorganised during an opening 30 minutes during which the home side ought to have put the match to bed.
After only two minutes a mistake from Massimo Donati allowed Ryan Bowman to break through on Gary Woods and the goalkeeper did well to save the striker’s initial shot and even better to beat away his attempt from the rebound.
He was left helpless, though, when Motherwell broke the deadlock in their next attack. Bowman’s run created the space and, when George Newell let his low cross run past him, Craig Tanner stole in to smash the ball high behind Woods at the near post.
Tanner could have had a hat-trick during that opening burst. He drove a cutback from Bowman into the side netting when he should have produced a more controlled finish and then he was only just beaten to Donati’s short passback by Woods.
Motherwell were monopolising possession but their failure to take their chances came back to bite them when, out of nothing, Hamilton found themselves level.
A shot from Ali Crawford struck Peter Hartley on the arm and, although the defender did not seem to have deliberately altered the trajectory of the ball, referee Andrew Dallas immediately awarded a penalty kick.
Hamilton captain Imrie rolled the ball into Trevor Carson’s left-hand corner for his fourth goal of the current campaign.
That proved to be the turning point in this contest.
Accies took the lead when Hartley made a mess of a meat-and-potatoes clearance, misjudging the flight of the ball and scuffing it to Rakish Bingham.
Bingham is hardly renowned for his finishing but he was calmness personified here as he ran 25 yards to slide the ball under the outrushing Carson.
Motherwell huffed and puffed but rarely looked threatening thereafter and Greg Docherty, with a clinical finish at the conclusion of a lung-bursting run, notched his third goal of the season.
Home manager Stephen Robinson forgave Hartley his indiscretions during the 90 minutes, although he had yet to witness his player’s assault on Imrie when he spoke.
“There are certain things that happen over and over again with certain players that I can’t forgive, and if I keep saying the same things to people and they keep doing it, then it’s time to look at something else,” he said.
“With Peter it is a one-off; he is a leader. Sometimes when you are that aggressive to go and win balls, you make mistakes. We’ll forgive that.”