Co-management team Stuart Kettlewell and Steven Ferguson had, it seemed, stirred County from slumber in their second match in charge, with Jamie Lindsay’s fine opener stoking hopes of a restorative victory for the bottom-of-the-table side.
A relapse to damaging traits early in the second half punctured the buoyant mood around the Global Energy Stadium and turned an already fraught occasion into a grim battle of wills.
Dougie Imrie’s half-time entry produced a penalty kick equaliser, before Marios Ogkmpoe’s fine strike nudged Accies into a winning position.
In the end, home skipper Andrew Davies marked his comeback from almost two months out injured with an invaluable equaliser that moved imperilled County a point closer – three behind, now – to relegation rivals Partick Thistle.
“To say we’re frustrated is an understatement,” Ferguson said. “When you put as much into the game as we did you expect to come away with all three points. We merited three.
“We showed character, determination and togetherness to turn it around. It is a positive to have gained a point considering the way we went about our business and how we reacted. We realise we need to pick up points, but we firmly believe we can get out of the situation we are in and we get the same vibe from the players.”
County made six changes to the team beaten 3-2 at Kilmarnock in the new managerial duo’s first outing. Most notably, strike pair Billy Mckay and Alex Schalk, scorers from the bench late on at Rugby Park, earned starts while captain Davies made a sooner-than-expected return after his calf injury.
Despite Imrie and Georgios Sarris returning from suspension, Accies were unchanged from the side that added a valuable victory over Motherwell to the previous week’s win against Partick.
The hosts’ need was greatest, and the aggression and urgency was apparent from the off. With less than four minutes gone, Tim Chow powered into the right side of Accies’ penalty area and clearly seemed to be knocked down by ex-County defender Kenny van der Weg. Referee Kevin Clancy dismissed home appeals. After 12 minutes, Schalk thrashed a swerving shot from 20 yards which Accies keeper Gary Woods just about palmed around his far left-hand post.
But the hosts made the crucial breakthrough inside 23 minutes. A long Davies ball forward was deftly controlled by striker Mckay and, as a Jason Naismith attempt was blocked, Lindsay raced on to it before neatly slotting low past Woods from ten yards.
Few could have anticipated the dramatic swing in fortunes after the break. Imrie casually levelled from the penalty spot, sending keeper Aaron McCarey the wrong way after Chris Routis had brought down Lewis Ferguson. Then, three minutes later, Ogkmpoe took a Ross Jenkins pass and struck a fierce left-foot shot into the bottom right-hand corner of the net.
With the good work undone, much of County’s assurance seemed to evaporate and attacking forays far less convincing. They kept plugging away, though, and renewed pressure told after 75 minutes.
The tireless Schalk swept in a terrific ball from the extreme right and skipper Davies strode in to slam a close-range header into the net.