Bell's Scottish Football League Division 1
Accies 2 St Mirren 2, 30/10/04
New Douglas Park, Hamilton, 30 October 2004
Hamilton Accies 2 St Mirren 2
At the risk of stating the bleedin' obvious, the main problem with promotion is that you suddenly have to play against better teams than you've been used to. In previous seasons, the quality of football played by Accies and the amount of energy they showed would have swept away any team from the lower two leagues. And I include the Accies of last season in that statement. Against one of the form teams in the league, Accies produced a performance that truly belied their poor position in the league table.
In a change to normal practice, Accies elected to attack the Spice of Life end from the start rather than save that for the second half. Perhaps it was in the hope that the low sun might trouble Craig Hinchcliffe in the visitors goal - or perhaps it was in recognition of the fact that the old superstition hadn't served Accies too well this season, given that four teams have already left NDP with three points in their hampers. Accies were along familiar lines, with Todd Lumsden apparently having recovered from injury to play. The visitors were missing Mixu "I always score against Accies" Paatelainen and had former Accies lazybones Allan Russell on the bench.
The best piece of skill in the opening stages came from Ricky Gillies, who tormented the Accies defence before his volley was tipped over superbly by Dave McEwan. The visitors were probably in the ascendancy when Accies took the lead after 15 minutes thanks to a sublime bit of skill from Brian Carrigan. Carrots latched onto a poor passback by a Saints defender and coolly lobbed Hinchcliffe before doing his famous cartwheel. It was a great goal and I think the entire Accies support held their breath before the ball crept just under the crossbar and fell into the net.
Accies came really close to extending their lead but the St Mirren defence were just able to clear from Iain Fyfe and Mark Corcoran. One feature of the game was just how well Ricky Waddell, Brian Carrigan and Scott Tunbridge were playing. That's no criticism of the rest of the players, however, as they all put in a really good shift.
The Accies defence looked a bit ropier than usual and the Saints had a couple of good opportunities to get back into the game. The best one involved one of their attackers who ran clear on the left with two teammates screaming for the ball in the middle. Happily, he elected to be a glory hunter rather than square the ball and the attack frittered out. Although Accies were doing well, St Mirren grabbed a controversial equaliser after 35 minutes. Todd Lumsden made a hash of a clearance and Brian McGinty ran into the area. He was brought down by Mark McLaughlin on tyhe edge of the area and referee Brian Cassidy pointed to the spot. Huge numbers of the Accies fans thought it a poor award and a chorus of "cheat, cheat" rang around the stadium. It didn't affect John O'Neill one bit as he smacked the penalty right down the middle for 1-1. I thought the award was a bit soft, although I would have been shouting for it at the other end. Pictures from Scotsport indicated that it was the right decision.
Before half time, Cassidy made his relationship with Accies even worse by first of all yellow carding Brian McPhee for allegedly diving and then outrageously failing to penalise St Mirren when one of their defenders clearly passed the ball back to Hinchcliffe. Todd Lumsden was easily dispossessed by a St Mirren attacker and was immediately replaced by Sandy Hodge. The big guy was clearly extremely disappointed to be hooked so early but I'm told that it was due to a recurrence of his injury rather than the result of his lacklustre performance. It was probably quite reasonable that the game was level at the break, although I have to admit that it felt as if Accies were behind.
The second half was just as entertaining as the first and Accies went back into the lead just before the hour with a good goal by the hard working Scott Tunbridge. First of all he put in a great tackle near the touchline to win possession and then knocked the ball forward to Brian Carrigan in the inside right position. Carrots weaved in and out as he ran into the area before his attempted pass was deflected towards goal by a Saints defender. The ball was easily saved by Hinchcliffe, but it fell kindly for Tunbridge following up, and the Aussie smashed the ball into the net to the delight of the home fans.
This was really the signal for St Mirren to increase their efforts even more but Dave McEwan was only really troubled when they equalised after 75 minutes, thanks to former Accie Allan Russell (who had replaced Ricky Gillies a few minutes earlier.) It has to be said that Allan Russell's spell at Accies a couple of seasons ago wasn't the happiest of times. Although the club was in crisis at the time and there were problems with the wages not being paid, most of the squad were professional enough to carry on with the task in hand and play to the best of their ability. Not Allan. He clearly had plenty of skill but no appetite for the game when he wore the red & white hoops. One comedian on the message board dubbed him an "oxygen thief", which seemed quite apt. Anyway, a ball to the back post was not cleared properly and Russell thumped it home with a crisp low shot, which would have gone well past the post if it hadn't ricocheted off Sandy Hodge's leg. It was a huge slice of luck for Russell and his celebration was clearly aimed at the Accies fans who had booed him onto the park just a few minutes earlier.
Although Accies were disappointed at this they continued to get stuck in and create a few chances. Criminally, they were denied a clear penalty when Mark Corcoran was obviously shoved in the back as he stretched to reach a cross from the right. Referee Cassidy looked over to his assistant but gave no award. Near the end, Brian McPhee got a half chance but snatched at his shot and it neither threatened the goal nor fell to his inrushing colleagues.
St Mirren had a bundle of corners towards the end of the game but they were all mopped up by the Accies defence, where skipper Steven Thomson had yet another superb game.
I suppose that before the game most of the Accies fans would have settled for a point against the high flyers. But this was another in a depressingly long line of games where extra points could easily have been taken. Accies did really well and on this form deserve to be higher in the league. But the table still refuses to lie and we're still in 9th position.
At least we should have seen the last of Brian Cassidy for a few weeks.
Hamilton: McEwan, Lumsden (Hodge 42), Thomson, McLaughlin, Waddell, Carrigan, Fyfe, Aitken (Blackadder 55), Corcoran, Tunbridge, McPhee.
Subs Not Used: Hamilton, McGlinchey, Jellema.
Booked: McPhee, Blackadder.
Goals: Carrigan 15, Tunbridge 58.
St Mirren: Hinchcliffe, van Zanten, Millen, McGowne, Broadfoot, Gillies (Russell 70), Murray, Reilly (Crilly 65), Ellis (Lappin 60), McGinty, O'Neil.
Subs Not Used: Baird, Woods.
Booked: van Zanten.
Goals: O'Neil 35 pen, Russell 75.
Ref: B Cassidy