Hamilton Academical’s Scottish Premiership survival bid suffered a blow in the Lanarkshire derby as Motherwell achieved a 1-0 victory.
Mark O’Hara’s goal seven minutes before half-time was enough to win the game after Hamilton midfielder Ronan Hughes was sent off at 0-0. Motherwell have all but secured their league safety which could be clinched if Kilmarnock lose to Dundee United, Hamilton still bottom of the league as they look for favours elsewhere.
Hughes’ red card after the half-hour mark was a turning point. He cynically brought down Robbie Crawford near the dugout, referee Kevin Clancy not hesitant to show the red. It only took five minutes for Motherwell to capitalise on this, O’Hara starting and scoring for the first time since the last Lanarkshire derby with a fine finish from 18-yards out.
Hamilton had lost just one of the previous eight derbies – achieving victory in all three this season – and should have been ahead inside a minute. Scott McMann’s free-kick found Hakeem Odoffin at the back-post, but the midfielder could only guide his shot wide. Devante Cole went up the other end and made Hamilton goalkeeper Kyle Gourlay work with a curled effort.
The last two derbies had at least two goals in their opening 45’s and it didn’t look as if the trend was to be repeated for a third time as the ball spent plenty of time in the air. But Hughes’ red card and O’Hara strike on the 38th minute handed Motherwell the reigns of an even match.
Bruce Anderson had the second half’s first shot on target through a tame volley straight at Motherwell goalkeeper Liam Kelly. A slow start spread into the rest of the half as both teams created very little in front of goal.
Lewis Smith returned from the bench to make his first Hamilton appearance since November as the attacker looked to change the game. O’Hara had the other notable chance of the half with a low effort but his first half effort proved enough to break Motherwell’s derby duck. Here are three things we learned.
This was a big game for both but particularly Hamilton, who are bottom of the Scottish Premiership. Brian Rice’s team kicked off prior to relegation rivals Ross County and Kilmarnock but now they could be as many as six points from the safety spot of 10th with three games to go should Ross County beat St Mirren and Kilmarnock defeat Dundee United. The next three games are huge.
While Hughes’ sending off didn’t have too much of a bearing on overall play as Hamilton coped well with a man down, it did contribute to the game’s biggest moment. O’Hara found space he wasn’t finding outside the box just minutes prior to settle the tight affair.
Bucking the trend
Motherwell were eager to avoid a clean sweep of defeats to Hamilton this season, three of Accies’ six wins this season coming against them. It wasn’t pretty but Graham Alexander’s team did enough to all but enough to mathematically secure their league safety.
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