IT may not usually get a name-check when great derbies of even the Scottish game are put to a straw poll but this all-Lanarkshire affair served up just about everything you could ask for when two local rivals go head to head.
Motherwell - 3
McDonald 9, 46; Moult 57
Hamilton Academical - 3
Tagliapietra 25; MacKinnon 28; Crawford pen 90
Unpredictable, controversial and laden with goals – it was compelling stuff. For Hamilton the karma finally came round in their favour. Beaten right at the death by Inverness just three days earlier (in another thriller that finished 4-3), it all went their way this time with Ali Crawford slotting home a penalty six minutes into time added on to tie things up at 3-3.
Most in the Motherwell camp felt the Accies midfielder was lucky to still be on the field after a series of questionable fouls, manager Mark McGhee lambasting it as “ludicrous”, but Crawford shut it all out to score in composed fashion when the pressure was firmly on his shoulders.
McGhee was much more philosophical about the overall outcome, expressing delight that his side had bounced back from being 1-2 down at the break and insisting that “the fact that we’ve drawn is neither here nor there. It’s a continuation of what we’ve been doing here. So upwards and onwards”.
Initially it seemed as though his side were on the road to continue their rapid upwards ascent as they took the lead within ten minutes. A short corner by Josh Law set Scott McDonald off on a driving run and his low angled drive skidded into the net with the visitors’ defence looking askance at each other.
If Accies gave the appearance of still being shell-shocked at the manner of their midweek defeat they quickly shrugged it aside. They turned proceedings on their head in a truly remarkable three-minute burst midway through the half.
First Crawford swung in a free-kick that was met by the head of Lucas Tagliapietra and it flashed past Connor Ripley into the net. Moments later Darian MacKinnon drifted in from the right flank and unleashed a majestic curling effort that again gave the Motherwell goalkeeper no chance.
MacKinnon was then busy at the other end as he managed to block a ferocious Marvin Johnson volley. The test of character had now switched to McGhee’s side and as match referee Greg Aitken’s officiating increasingly riled them, the interval came at just the right time to refocus their minds.
Within 60 seconds of the restart they were level with a grounded McDonald grabbing his second goal of the afternoon as he hooked the ball beyond McGovern.
A pulsating recovery by the hosts was then completed when Louis Moult sent a powerful diving header into the net from a Liam Grimshaw cross to make it 3-2.
With a third of the game still to go more goals seemed likely, with both sides now going at each other at full pelt in what had evolved into a gripping derby encounter.
Motherwell had the best of the chances to add more with a palm-stinging block by McGovern to keep out a Johnson drive being the closest they got. But there was to be a last twist. A frenetic scramble in the home penalty box saw Keith Lasley collect a second yellow card for a handling offence and from the spot Crawford drilled the ball home to level it with virtually the last kick of the game.
“They’re a great bunch of lads and today shows you the character of the team”, insisted the happy Accies manager Martin Canning.