Hamilton Accies have taken a cruel financial hit from the well-publicised online-banking scam, losing a hefty six-figure sum to insidious fraud. In this season’s Premiership, the admirably resilient South Lanarkshire outfit seem to be learning that honest endeavour isn’t always enough to prosper.
Where the commendable traits of hard work have seen them through stormy past seasons, confounding a good many detractors, the callow nature of the current injury-hit squad appears to be breeding damaging naivety in performances.
This was the fourth match in a row where Martin Canning’s team led and then lost. Defeat left them chewing over six beatings on the trot and seven matches without a win.
Ross County rose to the occasion, rewarding earlier fruitless attacking endeavours with two neatly-taken goals to turn this match on its head in the last 20 minutes and secure their first home win of the league campaign.
In this, Owen Coyle’s third game in charge, there was evidence of fresh vigour and momentum in Dingwall as County climbed two places to eighth, albeit after what was sometimes a ragged mess of a football match.
It took two substitutes, Dutchman Alex Schalk and Dane Thomas Mikkelsen, to wipe out Greg Docherty’s early second half opener, leaving Coyle thrilled with character shown.
“I thought it was thoroughly deserved,” the former Bolton Wanderers and Burnley manager said. “The character we showed on going behind, when we should have been in front in the first half, was excellent.
“It is important psychologically to get that first home win because, the longer it goes, the more pressure comes on you.
“That’s what I was pleased about today – the mentality. It would have been easy to then feel sorry for ourselves at 1-0 down.”
In contrast to the solitary striker deployed against Hearts seven days earlier, Coyle opted for a two-pronged attack with former Caley Thistle goalscorer Billy Mckay winning only his second club start alongside Craig Curran. By the end, it would be their two replacements who had stolen the glory.
Accies brought fighting spirit to the contest but County, mostly, held the keenest attacking menace.
In the highlight of the first half, Accies had former Liverpool keeper Ryan Fulton to thank for sparing an opener after 24 minutes. The Scotland under 21 star launched himself brilliantly low to his right to turn away a net-bound Billy Mckay header.
It was full-blooded stuff, but while County made a lively start to the second half they fell behind to the simplest of openers after 53 minutes.
Steven Boyd teed up a corner on the left and swung the ball invitingly into the six-yard box. Square on goal, only Accies’ Greg Docherty took up the offer – heading home from barely a couple of yards out.
Just when the Dingwall side seemed to be running out of ideas, they mustered a precious reply after 71 minutes. Patience told as the ball was worked wide right to the excellent Jason Naismith before the ex-St Mirren full-back again swirled in a terrific cross.
Where others had gone astray, substitute Schalk rose brilliantly eight yards out to send a header high into the roof of the net.
Michael Gardyne might have grabbed a County second from Kenny van der Weg’s delivery but saw his shot held from 12 yards.
But a minute later, County’s moment came as struck on the break. Schalk collected a long clearance and surged into space against back-tracking Accies defenders, then slipped a perfect pass in for Mikkelsen to cut low past keeper Fulton from 16 yards.
Moving eighth in the table, County will hope a first Premiership win at home since last May – also against Accies – will signal a new era under Coyle.
For Martin Canning, these are worrying times.
“That seems to be the story of the last five or six weeks. We seem to find a way to lose games – and it’s a poor place to be,” the Hamilton manager lamented. “That’s bugging me, we’re a little bit naive and green.
“We’ve got a lot of young players just making their way in the game and every time they switch off and make a mistake, we seem to be getting punished for it.
“The last goal was just criminal. To be pushing for a goal and leave ourselves that exposed at the back is scary. There’s no organisation, no communication and no-one taking charge.
“The main thing for me just now is the leadership and organisation. It’s not as if we’re getting battered from pillar to post. We’re comfortable in the game then it’s that bit of naivety that costs us.”