IN the end, it was all a moot point and after a goalless draw we’ll have to wait and see if Hamilton Accies and Dundee United are able to pour cold water on their celebrations.
Not that it was a bad game in Lanarkshire and were it not for the fine displays of Ryan Fulton and Benjamin Siegrist we might well have tested the players’ resolve to avoid post-goal embraces.
A remarkable, Gordon Banks-like claw by Fulton off his own line was as close as either came to breaking the deadlock, meaning it is now just the one win between them in each of their last five outings.
“It’s a point gained and another clean sheet,” said Hamilton manager Brian Rice, whose side remain second from bottom. “It was a fantastic save and that’s why I put him [Fulton] back in.
“Ryan is my number one but he now knows he has competition [from Kyle Gourlay]. Jamie Hamilton was outstanding, for an 18-year-old in the Premiership.
“You see the difference today with the experience and the likes of Brian [Easton] and Aaron [Martin] coming back in. A point was deserved for both teams.”
In a week of whispers about the season ending early again, it was Groundhog Day as far as United’s line-up was concerned, the visitors unchanged from their midweek draw with St Johnstone.
For Accies, it was quite the opposite with four players returning and arguably the experienced head of Brian Easton was most welcome. During the game he helped steady the ship beside the excellent Hamilton, but it was his words before it which proved most telling. “You know what to expect,” the skipper barked during the warm-up. “Make sure we are f*****g ready.” And they had to be.
With the flick of Liam Smith’s foot beyond Scott McMann or the movement of Lawrence Shankland, Louis Appere and Nicky Clark, the Tangerines threatened to overrun the hosts inside the first ten minutes. Clark was a particularly tricky problem for the Accies backline, his midfield berth giving him licence to stroll into gaps usually left untroubled.
That it took until the half hour mark for Fulton to be called into action said it all about the resilience of the home side, their defence popping up to plug potential holes more readily than that little Dutch boy. But the dam looked to have finally burst when Dillon Powers appeared on the right and swung in a deep cross which was met by Ian Harkes only for Fulton to push the ball over the bar.
Accies, for their part, gave as good as they got. Two lovely moves involving David Moyo and Callum Smith twice opened the door to Siegrist’s goal but misplaced cutbacks quickly slammed it shut. Frustratingly, when a Hamilton man finally found space inside the box, Smith lacked composure and could only blast his effort over the bar.
Micky Mellon was pleased with a point
For all the invention and promise, the game never really sparked into life in the first-half. So, it was a little unexpected when both flew out of the traps in the second to trade back-to-back jabs with gumption. In a furious ten-minute spell, Lee Hodson forced Siegrist into a flying save to his right, only for United to go straight up the other end and have a penalty shout waved away by Greg Aitken.
Next, the unlikely figure of Hakeem Odoffin, scorer when these side’s last met in Lanarkshire, strode forward and pinged a wonderful effort towards the bottom corner which had to be turned away before Clark saw a long-range effort foiled by Fulton.
Both continued to press but – despite the introduction of Mark McNulty and Marios Ogkmpoe – Micky Mellon’s calls for a “little bit of magic” ultimately went unheeded.
“You want to win every game in which you take part,” the Dundee United manager said.
“I really dislike when managers stand here and go on about could have, should have and never.
“We had opportunities and in terms of build-up play we were the team which looked most likely to get a result.
“We played some fantastic football at times and just need to be a bit more clinical.”