By Blair McNally
The Fountain of Youth Stadium brought a contender for ‘Game of the Day’ as St Johnstone ran out 5-3 winners in a goal-fest against Hamilton.
Accies failed to start in this game and it proved costly as a hungry St Johnstone side looked to win their first Scottish Premiership game in five. Defensively Hamilton were cut open, especially on the wings, as they failed to deal with the Perthshire Saints getting in behind.
It would be an exciting start to the first half for the Saints as it took a mere 60 seconds to break the deadlock. David Wotherspoon received a ball down the left hand side and touched it into his stride, he proceeded to take on the Accies defence, before cutting back with a step over and calmly placed the ball into talisman Stevie May’s path for a simple finish, with only a glancing touch needed to aid the ball into the right side of the goal.
Hamilton came close to levelling shortly after David Templeton drove at the St Johnstone defence before firing a strike, skimming the left post in the process. This would be the closest St Johnstone came to conceding as they continued to dominate, most importantly down both wings.
Hamilton’s slow start became evident as the game progressed, as a driving Scott Tanser cross was met by May, who opted for the wrong decision, flicking wide in the Accies box.
In the 13th minute the ball broke free to veteran Wotherspoon, who displayed composure at edge of the box, drilling the ball from 20 yards into the bottom left corner, to make it two goals to nil.
Accies problems would worsen soon after. Templeton was replaced by Ronan Hughes in the 17th minute after what seemed to be a groin injury.
May continued to search for his second goal of the afternoon, this time a McNamara cross from the right was touched onto the bar and over by Ryan Fulton.
St Johnstone pursued to take full advantage of Accies’ slow start. May was left free yet again, this time finishing a header from Conway’s powerful corner, gifting St Johnstone a 3-0 lead.
Five minutes before the half ended, Substitute Hughes found a break, as the ball came off his thigh and into his path, helping him to finish calmly down to the keeper’s right, making it 3-1.
Straight after that an Accies free kick whipped in by Scott McMann was met with an aggressive Marios Ogkmpoe header, curling into the top corner past a scrambling Zander Clark, putting Accies right back into things.
Wotherspoon nearly reimbursed the Saints two-goal lead just a minute later as he was through on goal, however, he chose to cut it back for an on-fire May.
Hamilton started the second half on the front foot. A whipping Kyle Munro cross was parried wide by the Saints No.1, as they looked to create an Istanbul-type comeback.
Accies continued to look the better team as they pressured St Johnstone, looking for the equaliser, however, a through ball out of nowhere was latched onto by May in a two-on-one situation and he calmly found Conway who stroked home to restore the two-goal lead.
With ten minutes left Hughes pounced on a Ross Callaghan strike, thundering off the bar, to give Accies a chance in the 80th minute, making the score 4-3.
A clumsy Accies challenge gave Conway the opportunity of a free kick on the edge of the box. As expected, the experienced winger curled the ball emphatically past the Hamilton goalkeeper, to make sure all three points returned to the Perth Saints. Here are three things we learned.
Hamilton need a fast start
Accies’ fighting spirit at the end of the first half, right up until St Johnstone’s fourth, wasn’t enough as the fairy-tale comeback proved to come too late in the day.
Opportunities to counter the St Johnstone overload were not pounced on which meant they were thoroughly dominated. Despite a two-goal comeback, Rice’s side were beaten by a strong performance from their visitors.
Room for improvement
A superb attacking performance from St Johnstone was nearly blown from the seams before half-time. The Perth side lacked concentration to hold onto a three-goal lead, with all the hard work nearly going down the drain.
Hamilton weren’t at the races for the entirety of the match and eventually lost as a consequence of this, despite showing heart to keep the game alive.
St Johnstone a real threat
With bags of experience drifting through the ranks of the Perth Saints, including former Dundee United star Conway, Scottish Cup winner May and Midfield maestro Wotherspoon, St Johnstone look likely to push up the table if they can build on today’s performance.
They exposed Hamilton with a brilliant attacking display, building on a League Cup display against Brechin City where they scored seven.