St Johnstone passed up the opportunity to move behind leaders Celtic after being held at Hamilton. The draw dropped them down to fourth position, which is still a remarkable placing for the Perth club on a budget far smaller than their rivals.
Yet manager Tommy Wright was able to find pluses from the way his players picked themselves up from their Betfred Cup quarter-final defeat in midweek and responded positively to falling behind at the SuperSeal Stadium.
“Obviously, it’s disappointing not to have moved up to second because we’re a wee club and we wanted our moment of glory,” he confessed.
“I hadn’t even realised that Aberdeen got a late winner, which moved us down to fourth. But this is a good start for us. We’re on the coat tails of Aberdeen and Hearts, who are much bigger clubs than us.”
The Perth side suffered an early setback when right-back Richard Foster limped off after only four minutes and Hamilton could have taken the lead shortly afterwards.
Ali Crawford’s ball over the top released Eamonn Brophy but goalkeeper Zander Clark was alert to the danger, leaving his line swiftly to divert the striker’s shot behind for a corner.
Saints had a couple of half-chances, Graham Cummins heading over from Michael Coulson’s cross and Liam Craig firing in a low drive which Remi Matthews needed two attempts to gather.
It was a fairly sterile contest, however, with neither side displaying much in the way of urgency.
Consequently, it wasn’t too surprising when the opening goal came from a set play.
Joe Shaughnessy was adjudged to have pushed Alex D’Acol – a decision which infuriated Saints manager Tommy Wright – and Ali Crawford pinged the free-kick to the far post, where it was met by D’Acol. He nodded it back across the face of the goal and Greg Docherty smashed the ball into the roof of the net from six yards out.
D’Acol then went from creating a goal to saving one when he cleared a Shaughnessy header off the line in Saints’ next attack.
As the second half progressed and the visitors’ need for a goal increased, the game became stretched and Accies ought to have doubled their advantage in the 66th minute.
Dougie Imrie created the opportunity with a surging run and low cross which Crawford allowed to run on for Docherty.
Six yards out and unmarked, the midfielder should have shot on sight; instead, he opted to get the ball under control before pulling the trigger and that gave Clark the split second he needed to leave his line and block the shot.
Accies’ manager identified the miss as the pivotal moment of the match.
“When you get the chance to put the game to bed and make it 2-0, you need to take it,” he said. “Instead, we end up conceding and it’s another point for us when three points was there for the taking.”
Brian Easton came close to an equaliser with a swerving cross which bamboozled Matthews but rebounded off the crossbar.
However, Saints deservedly levelled eight minutes from the end when Matthews could only parry a venomous drive by Blair Alston and Liam Craig, loitering with intent on the edge of the 18-yard box, fired home the loose ball.
Accies hung on to claim the draw which moved them off the bottom of the table but Canning did not attempt to hide his disappointment. “For us, it’s another one that got away,” he said.