Hamilton 2 - 0 Livingston: Accies show title credentials

Hamilton's James Keatings slots home his penalty kick to put his side 1-0 up yesterday. Picture: SNS
Hamilton's James Keatings slots home his penalty kick to put his side 1-0 up yesterday. Picture: SNS
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Hamilton remain four points clear at the top of the SPFL Championship after this comfortable victory got their show back on the road following their first defeat of the season last week at Alloa.

Their blend of good passing movement, solid defence, energetic commitment and willingness to attack must make them favourites for the leap up to the Premiership, even at this stage of the season.

The Livingston manager John McGlynn said: “There’s a long, long way to go, but from what I have seen, they are title contenders.”

The Accies were without player-manager Alex Neil, suspended after being sent off against Alloa. Former Livingston player Tony Andreu came in and did well in place of the gaffer.

“He showed the quality we know he has,” said Neil of the Frenchman. “He’s given me a real selection problem.”

Veteran Simon Mensing returned to his old stomping ground, this time in a Livingston shirt, and was warmly welcomed by the home fans.

There was little doubt which side was top of the Championship table and which was third from the bottom. From the outset, Hamilton camped in the visitors’ territory and only some misplaced final balls and good goalkeeping by Darren Jamieson kept the score down.

Some of Hamilton’s passing was top drawer, while several Livingston players looked uncomfortable on the artificial surface, and their choice of footwear must be questioned given the number of slips that occurred.

Andreu and Darian MacKinnon combined well in midfield throughout and a one-two between them set up Andreu for a low shot that flashed just wide after six minutes.

James Keatings was clean through before going down, referee Des Roache dismissing the penalty claim. Jamieson safely held a MacKinnon header before Hamilton had the ball in the net after ten minutes, Andreu being judged in an offside position as he netted the rebound off Ali Crawford’s shot.

Jamieson dived to brilliantly divert wide Mickael Antoine-Curier’s 13th-minute shot.

Livingston took 16 minutes to mount an attack. It flopped, and Hamilton were soon back in the ascendancy, Jamieson again preventing a goal when he blocked Crawford’s low shot following a neat short corner move with MacKinnon.

On the half-hour mark, MacKinnon looked to have scored but his shot was cleared off the line. The Hamilton midfielder tried again with a scissors kick, only for Andy Barrowman to raise his hands and block the shot, earning him a booking. From the penalty, Keatings tucked the ball neatly into Jamieson’s left corner and Hamilton had the lead they thoroughly deserved.

Credit to Livingston for trying to make a game of it but they were unable to create any real chances either side of half-time, despite earning corners. Instead, it was a Hamilton corner that saw the Accies double their lead after 65 minutes, Crawford’s vicious inswinger being dummied by Antoine-Curier which caused panic in the visitors’ defence and allowed Keatings to pounce for his second.

The second half was more even, but Livingston carried no cutting edge, even when Keaghan Jacobs was clean through – he slipped and sent the ball high over the bar when scoring seemed easier.

That summed up Livingston’s day as Hamilton strolled to the final whistle to gain a very merited three points.

Neil said: “We were totally dominant today. Seeing that, I don’t think there’s any way anyone could say that we are not one of the best teams in the league.”