Motherwell captain Tom Aldred is normally more concerned with preventing goals than scoring them but the former Bury and Carlisle United central defender displayed a rare flair to produce two outstanding finishes here as his side came from behind to claim what could prove to be a pivotal victory.
Hamilton would have moved to within a point of them with a home win in this Lanarkshire derby but Motherwell’s success means that they are now nine points clear of second-bottom St Mirren and it allows them to head into the winter break in a more relaxed frame of mind.
Manager Stephen Robinson did not appear particularly sanguine during the game, which he watched from the main stand as he served the final match of his touchline ban, but he was certainly thrilled by the outcome.
“It was a great result and I thought the performance was very good as well,” he said. “We dominated the whole game in spite of losing a goal on the one occasion when we didn’t track a runner.
“The fans were terrific and got right behind the boys and we showed discipline when we got on the ball.
“Aldred’s finishes were very good – and very surprising! Listen, I’m delighted for him because he was excellent at both ends.
“Peter Hartley coming back in provided a calming influence and a bit of organisation for a young side but Tom will take all the glory. He’s been great for me since we brought him here and he deserves all the credit today.”
Dougie Imrie had given the home side an early lead when the Motherwell defence was caught flat-footed by Steven Boyd’s through ball and the winger passed the ball into the far corner as Mark Gillespie left his line.
Aldred equalised when Hartley headed on an Elliott Frear corner and he lofted the ball over the defender on the line from 15 yards. Few could argue that the first half should have ended all square but Motherwell dominated the second period and Aldred’s winner was a long time coming.
Goalkeeper Gary Woods claimed he had been impeded but should have done better than punch David Turnbull’s free-kick straight to the defender, who once again produced an audacious chip to score.
Hamilton manager Martin Canning did not pull any punches in his post-match assessment, conceding that yet another relegation dogfight is now on the cards.
“We said to the players that there is no doubt where we are at, and where we need to be,” he said. “We need to finish as high up the league as we can, and at the minute that is looking like tenth.
“That’s our main aim.
“We want to still try and catch Motherwell if we can, but we know that is a big
task. We need to try and freshen things up, we need players in with a little bit of experience.
“We’ve got a lot of good young players, but at the minute we’re very inconsistent. If we can add two or three senior heads and get a few back that will help us in the second half of the season.”