Wednesday 5 April 2017, 19.45, Fir Park
A Lanarkshire derby in the Scottish Premiership between Motherwell and Hamilton Accies.
Both sides were in a battle for survival as they fought to try and retain their top league status. Motherwell sat one point above their rivals, in 10th and 11th respectively, with bottom club Inverness Caledonian Thistle a further three points back. With one side relegated and second bottom facing a play-off with a Championship side, both teams were looking for some breathing space.
It’s our third viewing of Motherwell this season and all have been at the home of the ‘Steel Men’. Motherwell came into the match fresh from a creditable 1-1 draw away to Rangers the previous weekend and would be hopeful of building on that under new manager Stephen Robinson. The manager was presiding over his third match in charge after the sacking of Mark McGhee.
The Well were without Stephen McManus, Richard Tait and top scorer Louis Moult. The latter a huge blow to their hopes.
It’s a first look of the season at Hamilton Accies, although we have seen their ladies team twice.
Hamilton Academical FC began in 1874, formed by the pupils and rector of the local school. They joined the Scottish Football League in 1897.
After some early dalliance with venues, they moved into Douglas Park in 1888 and won the Second Division title in 1904. As was so often the case in those days, the championship winners did not attain promotion as they did not get enough votes at the AGM of the Football Association.
1911 saw Accies reach the Scottish Cup Final for the first time, which they lost after a replay to Celtic. Later that year, the roof blew off both stands in strong winds. Don’t let anyone tell you it never used to be as windy as it is now.
Season 1934-35 saw their last appearance in the Scottish Cup Final to date, where again they were on the losing side, this time to Rangers. Fortunes took a turn for the worst with relegation in 1947-48, and it took them until 1952-53 to regain top flight status. This was short lived, however, as they were relegated again the following season. 1965-66 was the next time they appeared in the top league, but again it was for just the one campaign.
1970 brought things to a head. Clyde FC were looking to merge with Accies and move to Hamilton. Accies resigned from the league. The proposed merger was defeated and a new Board of Directors took over and approached the Scottish League officials to rescind the resignation and this was agreed to. They had left and rejoined the League in the same week.
Further one season appearances in the top league came in both 1986-87 and 1988-89. The former season also included a shock 1-0 win for Accies away to Rangers in the Scottish Cup.
Accies got new tenants for 1991-92 with Clyde moving in while their new facility in Cumbernauld was being built.
The early ‘90s saw Accies win the Challenge Cup (for teams outwith the top league) in 1992 and 1993.
It was Accies turn to be the lodgers when they left Douglas Park in 1994, 106 years since moving in. They played their home games at Partick Thistle’s ground.
With mounting debts and their new stadium put on hold, Accies were relegated to the third tier in 1996. They played the following season at Albion Rovers’ home and managed to gain promotion at the end of the season. The club went back to Partick for home games in 1998-99.
After the turn of the century, the financial situation deteriorated further with players not being paid and eventually going on strike. With Hamilton unable to fulfil their fixtures they were docked 15 points and were relegated to the Third Division.
2001 saw a quick promotion back to the third tier and more much needed good news in the same year when the much delayed new stadium, opened for the 2001-02 season. Financial difficulties continued to dog the club though and the club got a new owner in 2003.
Season 2003-04 saw a return to the second tier and 2008-09 saw the beginning of a three season return to the top league. Relegation saw Accies away from the top league for three seasons before promotion again in 2013-14 via the play-offs in a dramatic win over Hibs found them again in the top league, where they have remained. Manager Alex Neil left to become boss of Norwich City in January 2015 and Martin Canning has been in the hot seat since then.
Grant Gillespie misses out for Accies. New signing David Templeton, the former Hearts and Rangers winger, isn’t yet match fit.
A tenth place finish last season just avoided being involved in the relegation play-offs and they are hoping to steer away from it once again. A last minute winner in their previous game against nine man St Johnstone has given Accies new hope. Motherwell also went into the game with some confidence after a draw at Rangers.
I thought there might have been more than the 4,644 who attended.
The home side started in the ascendency and carved out the first real chance with 5 minutes gone. The ball was headed down to McDonald in the box and he chested it down and turned sharply and fired at goal. Matthews managed to block it but it fell to Bowman just a couple of yards from the Accies goal, but he pulled his effort wide of the post.
McDonald was next to have a strike at the Hamilton goal a minute later, but it was too central and Matthews saved comfortably.
Hamilton’s first effort came from a Crawford attempt from outside the box in 9 minutes, when he latched onto a throw in from McMann, but it was too high.
McDonald fed the ball to Bowman in 13 minutes as Well came forward again and he pulled the ball back to Pearson on the edge of the box, but he screwed his shot wide.
Motherwell had Cadden bursting down the right in 19 minutes, but his low cross looking for Bowman was smothered by Matthews.
When a Hamilton cross was deflected in 22 minutes, it came to MacKinnon on the edge of the Motherwell box, and he sent a half volley goalwards, but Samson got across to push the ball round the post.
An Accies corner in 23 minutes found the head of Sarris, but he put the ball just wide of the post.
Samson did well to hold onto a bouncing effort from Skondros from outside the Well box in 25 minutes as Accies started to come into the game.
As Accies confidence grew, they came even closer to opening the scoring in 29 minutes when Crawford’s crossfield pass hit the back of Imrie and fell to D’Acol, whose shot from 25 yards clipped the outside of the post.
A long ball by Hammell into the Accies box in 30 minutes was misjudged by Matthews and he ended up punching the ball behind his own goal for a Well corner. Frear’s kick was met powerfully by the head of Heneghan and D’Acol headed away via the bar. The home side’s players surrounded the referee claiming the ball was over the line, but he wasn’t interested.
Blyth got his head on a Well corner in 36 minutes, but he couldn’t direct it on target.
In 40 minutes, another headed chance in the Accies box, this time when Heneghan headed the ball down to McDonald who, from about three yards, headed straight at Matthews.
A slack pass from Well two minutes from the break gave the ball to Imrie on the left, who passed inside to Crawford. He fed Bingham whose drive from the right side of the Well box produced a good save from Samson.
Well’s Pearson picked up the game’s first booking just before half time.
A strong start from Motherwell, with Hamilton coming more into the half as it progressed.
As well as the last opportunity of the first half, Bingham had the first one of the second half. His header from Imrie’s cross saved by Samson.
In 59 minutes, Skondras picked up Accies first yellow card for a late tackle.
With 64 minutes gone, Pearson’s ball across the Accies goal came to Frear, whose rifled shot flew just wide of the far post.
There was a delay in proceedings in 74 minutes as Well’s Bowman received treatment. The home fans appeared to be giving abuse to MacKinnon who made a gesture in response. The linesman had seen this and reported it to the referee who promptly sent him off.
With the extra man, Motherwell bossed possession but still struggled to create any clear-cut chances. They did have a near miss when an Ainsworth cross was back headed over Matthews by Bowman, but Sarris acrobatically cleared the ball off the line.
Sarris was next in the book in 80 minutes for a late tackle.
With three minutes to go, Accies broke quickly after an Ainsworth cross had been cleared and the ball was worked to Donati by D’Acol who struck firmly at goal, but straight at Samson.
A point apiece may be vital when the season ends, but neither side could leave delighted with the result or performance. A game of few good chances and not the greatest to watch. The diehard fans of each side may have felt things were more tense and exciting, but there wasn’t much for the neutral. Even the mascots looked as if they were discussing doing a runner.
Bowman worked hard for Well and Samson was confident in goal. D’Acol held the ball up well and made some good runs for Accies and Sarris was excellent at the heart of their defence.
Full Time: Motherwell 0 Hamilton Accies 0
Motherwell: 1 Craig Samson, 8 Carl McHugh, 4 Ben Heneghan, 3 Steven Hammell, 12 Chris Cadden, 20 Craig Clay (Lasley 55), 88 Stephen Pearson, 17 Elliott Frear (Ainsworth 72), 19 Jacob Blyth (Gordon 63), 77 Scott McDonald, 11 Ryan Bowman. Subs: 7 Lionel Ainsworth, 13 Russell Griffiths, 14 Keith Lasley, 21 Zak Jules, 25 David Ferguson, 26 Allan Campbell, 36 Shea Gordon.
Hamilton Accademical: 1 Remi Matthews, 3 Skondras, 4 Michael Devlin, 89 Georgios Sarris, 23 Scott McMann, 18 Darian MacKinnon, 7 Dougie Imrie (Gogic 84), 8 Greg Docherty, 11 Ali Crawford (Donati 77), 9 Alex D’Acol, 15 Rakish Bingham (Redmond 62). Subs: 10 Danny Redmond, 14 Gogic, 19 Darren Jamieson, 20 Eamonn Brophy, 21 Massimo Donati, 30 Steven Boyd, 39 Blair Adams.
Referee: Kevin Clancy