The home keeper was called on to deny a resurgent Partick Thistle, pulling off a couple of cracking saves in the final ten minutes of a match Ian Cathro’s side could have had wrapped up by half-time. Instead the capital side faltered, allowing the Premiership’s trailing team to level matters and grow into a game they would have won had it not been for Hamilton.
In Cathro’s home debut, the bonhomie of the welcome was soon overshadowed. Having taken the lead in the 18th minute, when Liam Smith’s cross into the box was sent past Thomas Cerny courtesy of Bjorn Johnsen’s glancing header, the home side were trying to make the most of their possession and the superiority as Thistle struggled to gain a foothold.
Just before half-time the hosts could have enhanced their lead when Jamie Walker, Don Cowie and Arnaud Djoum combined but the Cameroon No 10 had to wait what felt like an age for the ball to drop for him and saw his shot tipped away from the target. From a set piece, Igor Rossi then saw his header rebound off the Partick crossbar.
But failing to capitalise on that early advantage was to prove costly as Thistle came back out for the second half with a greater sense of purpose and immediately had Hearts on the back foot.
Sean Welsh headed home an equaliser just three minutes after the break, and with it ignited the unrest in the stands and the nerves in the home ranks.
Hearts fans were quick to voice their disquiet as their players lost their grip on proceedings and boos rang out as the goalscorer was substituted and groans accompanied every rogue pass, mistimed tackle or misjudged move.
“That’s part and parcel of football, I suppose,” said Hamilton. “It’s anywhere you go. It’s not just here. Any club you go to, the fans pay money and want to see you win. It’s our job to win. We didn’t do that.”
And it could have been a lot worse had Hamilton not pulled off those late saves. Thistle had cranked up their assault on his goalmouth in the final ten minutes and although Callum Booth’s shot smacked off the bar, and Liam Lindsay’s header sailed over it, it was the keeper who produced the goods to deny Chris Erskine and then Kris Doolan. Had any of those efforts gone in, it would have been just rewards for a team fighting for survival in the top flight.
Hamilton conceded that Hearts had dipped short of the standards usually met at home but said it was not down to any changes by the new gaffer.
“Not at all,” he insisted. “He has come in and he has not changed much. He’s got his ways that he wants to play and he’ll start introducing that over time. But we should be capitalising on these games. These are the games we need to win if we want to do anything in the league. If we want to finish as high as we can, these are the games we need to go and perform in. But the gaffer has not changed much. It was just a bad performance from the boys, although it wasn’t all bad. There were some positives in there, but on the whole, we have drawn the game when we set up to win.
“It’s hard. When things are good, they are good. Everybody goes through a wee rough spell. The last two games we have not performed well but the two games before that, against Rangers and Motherwell, we had done really well. We have to go back to those two games and try to get back to that.”
Only then will they get the crowd off their back and stand any chance of pegging back the teams above them and making good on their ambitions.