Hamilton Academical 2 - 0 Falkirk: Result far from Academical

Don’t be misled by the score because this top-of-the-table clash was a country mile from the comfortable win for Hamilton Accies it appears on paper.

Falkirk's Blair Alston, right, slides in on Hamilton's Jon McShane in a feisty encounter. Picture: SNS

On the pitch the leaders were made to sweat for the three points, especially after the break, with the result only becoming certain three minutes from time.

At first, Hamilton looked like a team high on confidence and determined to eschew route one. Playing with style, they started brightly, with Stephen Hendrie unleashing a long-range shot with the match just seconds old.

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They should have gone ahead on six minutes when Mikey Devlin put his free header from a corner wide, while Ali Crawford had an even clearer chance to score when Jon McShane played him in with just Mike McGovern to beat only for him to fire weakly at the Falkirk keeper.

The opening goal came just moments later and was a classy move made in France and given a bit of Scottish steel by the contribution of Crawford, whose movement and distribution in the first half was outstanding. He combined well down the right with Mickael Antoine Curier, playing the big striker into space just outside the penalty area, Curier’s low cross to the front post being met by the impressive Tony Andreu, whose finish crept past the despairing McGovern.

If Accies dominated, with Crawford at the centre of a midfield which passed the ball fluently and with purpose while Hendrie and Ziggy Gordon provided width, they struggled to fashion many clear-cut chances, with Crawford’s audacious curling shot and a Darian Mackinnon run to the touchline their only two half-chances.

Falkirk, by contrast, were under the cosh but towards the end of the first half only two superb saves from Hamilton keeper Kevin Cuthbert preserved the home side’s lead.

Rory Loy, who has been revitalised since joining the Bairns from Carlisle, almost got Falkirk’s first when he twisted and turned in the penalty area before sending in a shot which the wrong-footed Cuthbert saw late and did well to stop with his right foot, with the keeper then saving well from Craig Sibbald.

The game crackled into life after the break with a spate of chances for the visitors. Rakish Bingham squandered a breakaway after Accies skipper Martin Canning was caught in possession, David McCracken then headed just over the bar from a corner, and then Bingham just failed to get Falkirk back on level terms when he was unable to get his head to a cross.

As the rain lashed down and Falkirk poured forward, the whole narrative of the game seemed to have changed. Accies were no longer in control but hanging on, with players like Crawford suddenly peripheral and Falkirk pressing and winning the lion’s share of 50-50 tackles. Yet try as they might, Falkirk failed to carve out any of the clear-cut opportunities that had come their way either side of the break.

Just as it looked as if the game had settled down into a fruitless war of attrition, Hamilton struck to seal the win.

On a rare foray forward with three minutes to play, the ball was swung over from the right and cleared to the edge of the Falkirk box, only for substitute Louis Longridge to half-volley a sweet strike into the bottom corner with his first touch for a goal which provided an entirely misleading impression of comfort.

The Accies bandwagon may be rolling inexorably towards the top flight, but this turned into an unexpectedly bumpy ride.