Saints pinch point but fall short in bid to se­cure sec­ond place

The Herald - Herald Sport - - LADBROKES PREMIERSHIP -

ST JOHN­STONE failed in their mis­sion to move into sec­ond place in the Lad­brokes Premier­ship ta­ble but they were thank­ful in the end that they left La­nark­shire with any­thing at all.

Trail­ing to a Greg Docherty goal and not look­ing like pen­e­trat­ing a re­silient Hamil­ton de­fence in a largely dom­i­nant sec­ond half, it seemed as though they would leave emp­ty­handed.

How­ever, Liam Craig res­cued a point with his first league goal of the sea­son eight min­utes from time.

It was a sign of the char­ac­ter of the Perth men that they fought un­til the end, es­pe­cially af­ter a crush­ing Bet­fred Cup quar­ter-fi­nal de­feat last Thurs­day night.

And they were also forced into an early change when Richard Fos­ter went off in four min­utes with a thigh in­jury and was re­placed by debu­tant Aaron Com­rie.

Un­sur­pris­ingly, man­ager Tommy Wright was ap­pre­cia­tive of his play­ers’ ef­forts. He said: “We showed great char­ac­ter to bounce back af­ter los­ing so late at Aberdeen in mid­week and we had mo­ments of qual­ity as well.

“It’s dis­ap­point­ing not to have moved up to sec­ond be­cause we’re a wee club and we wanted our mo­ment of glory. But this is a good start for us. We’re on the coat-tails of Aberdeen and Hearts, who are much big­ger clubs than us.”

Hamil­ton took the lead in 37 min­utes and it was a very well-worked goal as they made the most of a set-piece op­por­tu­nity, al­though St John­stone were un­happy that a free-kick was given against Joe Shaugh­nessy for barg­ing into Ea­monn Bro­phy.

Wright lamented: “It was so soft. I haven’t seen it again but if that’s a foul then God help us. Ref­er­ees will be blow­ing their whis­tle ev­ery 30 sec­onds.”

Ali Craw­ford clipped the ball to the back post where Alex D’Acol was un­marked and he headed back across the face of the six-yard box.

The ball broke to Docherty and he slammed a left-foot shot high into the Saints net.

Hav­ing as­sisted with the goal, D’Acol proved to be a highly com­pe­tent de­fender as he pre­vented the Perth side from equal­is­ing four min­utes later. Saints won a cor­ner on the left side and the Ac­cies de­fence failed to deal with Danny Swanson’s ball as he picked out Shaugh­nessy in­side the six-yard box.

The Ir­ish de­fender thought he had scored as he pow­ered a header to­wards the left cor­ner but D’Acol was on the line to make a vi­tal block.

It would have been sweet ret­ri­bu­tion for Shaugh­nessy who felt ag­grieved by Euan An­der­son’s de­ci­sion to pe­nalise him for the free-kick that led to Ac­cies’ goal.

It had been an even con­test to that point al­though St John­stone had en­joyed bet­ter scor­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties.

They sliced Hamil­ton open with a sweep­ing move in 30 min­utes when Swanson worked the ball wide to Michael Coul­son who quickly rolled a great pass back for Liam Craig whose shot was spilled by Remi Matthews but then re­claimed by the on-loan Nor­wich goal­keeper.

Four min­utes later Swanson was at the heart of the mat­ter again as he teed up Coul­son just out­side the box but he shot past the right post.

Hamil­ton had been brighter to be­gin with – much like the La­nark­shire weather – and Grant Gille­spie thought he had played in Bro­phy to per­fect ef­fect in the in­side right chan­nel but Zan­der Clark was quick off his line to make a fine block­ing save.

How­ever, as the rain bat­tered down in the sec­ond half it seemed to dampen their style and St John­stone put them un­der con­sid­er­able pres­sure with­out re­ally carv­ing out an open­ing.

Hamil­ton de­fended su­perbly and may have sealed vic­tory had they taken chances on the counter-at­tack.

Docherty could not get the ball out of his feet quickly enough to an­gle a shot past Clark, hav­ing been set up by Dougie Im­rie in 64 min­utes, shoot­ing straight at the goal­keeper.

Then Docherty pro­duced some sparkling play down the left side be­fore de­liv­er­ing a great cross for Bro­phy but the young striker headed over the bar.

Wright with­drew his start­ing strik­ers Coul­son and Gra­ham Cum­mins, send­ing on Joe Gorm­ley and Chris Kane to try to find the equal­is­ing goal his side de­served.

He got his re­ward when Kane played a piv­otal role in the build-up to the lev­eller eight min­utes from time.

Swanson picked him out in the box and Kane ham­mered a right-foot shot which proved to be too hot for Matthews, who did well to make a block on it.

Craig was first to the loose ball and slammed a low left-foot shot home.

Hamil­ton man­ager Martin Can­ning was frus­trated that his side could not hold on for what would have been a most wel­come vic­tory.

He said: “For us, it’s an­other one that got away. It’s a re­cur­ring theme for us just now. I go back to Kil­marnock when we were 1-0 up and cre­at­ing chances. Dundee away was the same.

“St John­stone pinned us in a bit in the sec­ond half. They had a lot of cor­ners and free-kicks but we de­fended our box well. We also hit them on the break and Greg has to score to make it 2-0. We must be more ruth­less in front of goal.”

Hamil­ton:

Matthews; Gille­spie, Sar­ris, Donati, Se­aborne; Docherty, MacK­in­non, Craw­ford, Im­rie; D’Acol (Lon­gridge 64), Bro­phy (Bing­ham 77). Not used: Thomson, Red­mond, Roy, McMann, Want.

Booked St John­stone:

Donati, Docherty, MacK­in­non, Craw­ford.

Clark; Fos­ter (Com­rie 4), An­der­son, Shaugh­nessy, Eas­ton; Al­ston, Swanson, David­son, Craig; Cum­mins (Kane 74), Coul­son (Gorm­ley 68). Not used: Man­nus, Wother­spoon, Pa­ton, Gordon.

WHAT A FEEL­ING: St John­stone’s Liam Craig gives it laldy af­ter equal­is­ing late on to earn a point from a match the Perth side looked like tak­ing noth­ing from. Pic­ture: SNS

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