Motherwell secured their place in this afternoon’s draw for the fifth round of the Scottish Cup with this comfortable, comprehensive victory.
The last time Hamilton eliminated their Lanarkshire rivals from the competition for the world’s oldest cup was in 1911, when Herbert Asquith was prime minister, George V was on the throne and Stan Laurel had yet to meet Oliver Hardy.
On yesterday’s evidence, it may well be another 117 years before they emulate that achievement. They were punchless up front, feckless at the back and soft in the middle, allowing the home side to dominate proceedings.
“We got back to doing what we do best; we were aggressive, had a real tempo about us and won the physical battle,” said Motherwell manager Stephen Robinson. “We played some really good stuff as well.
“The three boys up top were good. Nadir Ciftci will get better and better once he gets fitter, but I though Craig Tanner and Curtis Main were also a real threat amongst some really good performances.”
Motherwell opened the scoring after only four minutes but, in truth, they had very little to do with it.
Readers old enough will recall Willie Donachie’s own goal against Wales at Hampden in 1978, when the full-back’s sloppy passback left goalkeeper Jim Blyth helpless to prevent the visitors claiming a 1-1 draw.
On this occasion, Scott McMann was at fault. He clearly had no idea where Gary Woods was when he knocked the ball back to where he believed he should have been. Woods stuck out a foot but it trundled past him and inside the far post.
McMann’ then he appeared to take the legs from Craig Tanner but referee Craig Thomson took a different view.
Main, the new signing from Portsmouth, should have doubled the hosts’ advantage after fellow debutant Ciftci and Tanner combined to send him clear but he lofted his shot from 12 yards over the bar.
A second goal arrived and was, again, the result of dilatory defending. An audacious flick by Ciftci from a Richard Tait throw-in found Main, who was brought down by Alex Gogic’s clumsy challenge, Tanner converting the penalty.
Accies had the chance to reduce the leeway immediately afterwards but Trevor Carson was equal to Rakish Bingham’s header, as he was to a fierce David Templeton drive on the stroke of half-time. The visitors badly missed the dynamic, box-to-box runs of Greg Docherty but, having rejected Rangers offer as well as their deferred payment plan, manager Martin Canning was denied the use of the player due to an ankle injury.
His absence allowed Lewis Ferguson, son of former Rangers and Hearts playmaker Derek, to make his debut but the teenager struggled,not helped by his more experienced team-mates.
At no time during the second half did Hamilton look like mounting a comeback. Motherwell, by contrast, could easily have added to their tally.
It was a performance which left Canning baffled. “We never really got going today,” he admitted. “I was disappointed with the first half and, obviously, the goals were crazy. The first you don’t expect to see at this level and, at the second, Gogic has three attempts to clear the ball, doesn’t do it, they take a quick throw and he gives away a stupid penalty.”
Canning stressed that he expects Docherty to still be a Hamilton player by the time the current transfer window closes and revealed that he may return when Hearts visit the SuperSeal Stadium in midweek.
“He said he was probably 80-85 per cent fit today and that he’d give it a go but we decided not to take the chance with Wednesday in mind,” he said.