Heroic Hamilton: How manic SPFL Trust Trophy final played out - Tumilty floors ex-club, Fulton channels inner Gordon Banks

Man-of-the-match Ryan Fulton lifts the SPFL Trust Trophy after a tremendous performance against Raith Rovers.Man-of-the-match Ryan Fulton lifts the SPFL Trust Trophy after a tremendous performance against Raith Rovers.
Man-of-the-match Ryan Fulton lifts the SPFL Trust Trophy after a tremendous performance against Raith Rovers.
Hamilton Accies put in a herculean performance to lift the SPFL Trust Trophy against all the odds against Raith Rovers.

Three injuries in the first half? Check. A man sent off just minutes into the second half? An incessant onslaught from their opponents thereafter? Check. Yet John Rankin’s men dug as deep as they could to cling on to a wafer-thin 1-0 lead and get their hands on this piece of silverware for the first time since 1992, when it was called the B&Q Cup.

This was a proper DIY job for Accies, who had to plug gaps all over the place. Their lone striker Benny Ashley-Seal only lasted ten minutes, then Marley Redfern departed on 21 minutes and Matthew Shiels rolled his ankle and could only last until the break. All subs had been used by 58 minutes as Rankin adapted to a red card for defender Dan O’Reilly by bringing on Brian Easton. But the veteran defender, alongside the excellent Dylan McGowan, held firm, with the help of goalkeeper Ryan Fulton. The stopper made two stunning saves from Lewis Vaughan as Rovers were left to lick their wounds.

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The pain will be exacerbated by the man who scored what turned out to be Accies’ winner on the half-hour mark. Full-back Reghan Tumilty spent two years at Stark’s Park, where he won this competition last season with a win over Queen of the South. After a short, unhappy stint at Hartlepool, the 26-year-old returned north to Accies in February and picked a fine time to score his maiden Accies goal, a drilled effort on his weaker left foot after a Reegan Mimnaugh corner had landed in his path. It was the perfect way to shut up the Raith fans, who had jeered an earlier effort from him that had sailed miles over the bar. This was the first time serial winners Raith had lost in this tournament since a reversal by Ross County way back in September 2018.

Regan Tumilty celebrates putting Accies ahead against his old club.Regan Tumilty celebrates putting Accies ahead against his old club.
Regan Tumilty celebrates putting Accies ahead against his old club.

This Sunday afternoon was all about Accies, though. Battling relegation in the Championship, a triumph in the face of adversity will give them great heart in their quest for survival. Before the sending off, they more than matched Raith, with the biggest threat to their goal coming when McGowan so nearly provided a potential moment of real comedy. Under no pressure, he drilled a header back towards Fulton, who had to stretch every sinew to catch it and stop it going into the net. Both he and McGowan chuckled to themselves but it could so easily have gone the other way.

That was the story of this match: fine margins. Rovers came out an improved team after the break. On 55 minutes, Sam Stanton was left crumpled on the turf by a forearm smash by Daniel O’Reilly and referee Colin Steven was left with little option but to send the defender off. The game was then exclusively played in Accies half.

Step forward Mr Fulton. Already applauded for a good save from Stanton, that stop was nothing compared to his Gordon Banks-esque effort on 78 minutes, somehow scooping Vaughan’s header over the bar from close range. He almost beat it with another save from the same player, spreading himself to deny the crestfallen attacker from close range. His, and Hamilton’s heroics, more than merited the prize at the end.