It’s been quite some time since it was Firhill for thrills – their previous home win before yesterday was on 30 December – but the first home game since former manager John Lambie died produced a match packed full of incident and controversy. Plus, for Thistle at least, it had a happy ending.
Lambie’s widow, along with her daughters and grandchildren, were introduced to the supporters before the kick-off on the day that Thistle named the stand behind the goal after him; Lambie also took charge of Hamilton and their supporters enthusiastically joined in the minute’s applause in his honour.
Thistle had gone 10 games without a victory, losing eight of them, but they responded well to adversity here, coming from behind to move above Ross County and into the play-off position, just two points behind yesterday’s opponents.
“I thought we deserved it,” said manager Alan Archibald. “We started really brightly and the tribute to John helped. We went a goal behind against the run of play but we showed spirit to come back. I think the boys got caught up in atmosphere a little bit and we went for it a bit too much at times.
“We put a lot into it but didn’t get our rewards and we didn’t work their goalie. Once we lost the goal we had a wobble for five minutes. At half-time we told them it could come and it did.
“Kris was a real captain for us. He played a real part and it was a fantastic finish for his goal. Conor Sammon was out the team but he came on and gave us a real lift. That gave us the confidence to get the second.”
Once the action started, it was the hosts who were first out of the blocks and they could easily have taken the lead in the 10th minute. Darren Lyon had his pocket picked by Chris Erskine deep in his own half, Erskine released Kris Doolan but the striker’s shot was diverted to safety by Gary Woods, who had raced from his goal to narrow the angle.
Hamilton could have had a penalty kick in the 25th minute when goalkeeper Tomas Cerny appeared to catch Marios Ogkmpoe as he latched on to a through ball, The Greek striker still managed to pull the trigger but Christie Elliott, alert to the danger, raced back to clear.
Callum Booth was cautioned for a needless foul from behind on David Templeton but Hamilton’s leading scorer broke the deadlock just before the interval. Dougie Imrie’s cross was hopelessly misjudged by Elliott, the ball ran to Templeton and he took a touch before passing the ball into Cerny’s bottom left-hand corner from 18 yards.
Accies really ought to have given themselves a two-goal cushion four minutes after the restart when Templeton’s incisive pass left Rakish Bingham with only Cerny to beat but a dreadful first touch from the striker saw the ball spin behind for a goal-kick.
Templeton then set up Ogkmpoe with a slide-rule pass but the former drove the ball straight at Cerny when a shot either side would surely have resulted in a goal.
Missed opportunities have a habit of coming back to bite you and that is precisely what happened here as the home side finally rediscovered their mojo. Kris Doolan brought them level with an emphatic header from Blair Spittal’s cross (his 100th league goal for the club) and Australian midfielder Ryan Edwards – who had come off the bench immediately after that goal – gave them the lead, lashing the ball behind Woods from 15 yards after the Accies defence had failed to deal with an inswinging corner from Booth.
Hamilton manager Martin Canning pinpointed referee John Beaton’s refusal to penalise Cerny and his side’s woeful finishing as the main reason for their sixth successive defeat.
“We had a stonewall penalty which wasn’t given,” he said. “It could have been a red card for Cerny as well. The law is that, when there’s an attempt to play the ball it’s only a booking but there’s a decision to be made there.”
“It was a poor decision not to give the penalty, The referee said that our players’ reaction made him think it wasn’t a penalty. Our players shouldn’t have to react – it’s his job to see fouls and to give it.”