Web reporter Martin McConnell gives us Martin Canning’s post match thoughts, and Saturday’s report
Tynecastle Stadium, Edinburgh
Saturday 11th March 2017 at 3pm.
Heart of Midlothian 4 Hamilton Academical 0
Hearts produced a polished performance at Tynecastle, and put their five-match winless run and any lingering doubts them with a four-goal thumping of Accies. And it could have been much, much more, if not for an outstanding string of saves from our ‘keeper Gary Woods and some last ditch defending from the back three.
We managed to weather the first half storm that Hearts unleashed, with Goncalves, Sam Nicholson and Jamie Walker all proving to be a thorn in Accies side. Despite this, Hamilton held on thanks to an inspired Woods and some dogged defending. But the pressure finally took its toll when Arnaud Djoum fire in, two minutes into first half injury time.
The second forty-five started with the ball in the back of the Accies net, before being cancelled out. But the respite was short lived when Goncalves struck home from a perfectly struck free kick. And after losing four goals to set pieces at Ibrox, the situation got much worse when Walker, and then Martin both added goals straight from free kicks.
Accies boss Martin Canning said after the defeat, “I don’t think we played well and that was probably our worst performance of the season. Right the way through we didn’t look like creating opportunities, which is disappointing, and up the park we have to do much, much better. The two strikers aren’t doing enough to retain possession up the park and get us out.
“Defensively today I thought we worked away and the back three did reasonably well but in middle of the park we lost the battle. You can’t afford to come to places like this and lose the battle, because you know that they’re going to create chances. I watched their past couple of games, and although they didn’t win they still created plenty of opportunities.”
Hamilton began the match with a whopping five changes to last Saturdays starting lineup. In came Gary Woods, Massimo Donati, Scott McMann, Greg Docherty and Danny Redmond for Matthews, Adams, Devlin, MacKinnon and Kurtaj. The hosts made just the two changes, with Choulay and Johnsen making way for Jamie Walker and Esmael Goncalves.
Both sides made a lively start to the proceedings, but it was Hearts that threatened first when Gary Woods was called into action and forced to make a fantastic fingertip save from a Jamie Walker header. Moments later the Accies stopper saved again when one on one with Goncalves, then if that was not enough, Sam Nicholson sent a blistering shot just wide of goal.
On ten minutes, ex-Accie Lennard Sowah, crossed into the six yard area for Goncalves to head toward the back post, but Woods threw himself along his goal line too touch wide.The match continued at a relentless pace, Accies looked firmer at the back, and almost found a killer pass up front on more than one occasion.
Almost on the half hour, Woods was called into action when he saved on the goal line from a 22 yard Tziolis strike. He somehow managed to get a hand on the ball as he was moving in the opposite direction, then recovered to smother before a Jambo pounced. There was almost no respite before saving from a 15 yard Jamie Walker strike.
With the half time whistle nearing, Tziolis sent a dangerous ball into the Accies penalty area toward Goncalves. Georgios Sarris managed to stall the striker with a body check, but couldn’t stop his strike on goal, which again was saved. But it wasn’t too remain goalless; after a series of blocks Arnaud Djoum struck low from 10 yards, seconds before half time.
It looked as if Hearts had gone two up; with just three minutes of the second have played, a Goncalves’ shot snuck in from a Lenny Sowah cross, but the far side assistant’s flag was duly raised for offside. But Hearts soon grabbed a second when Cowie teed up Goncalves to score after a 12 yard indirect free kick, after Hamilton had been penalized for a pass back. (There appeared to have been a whistle in the crowd which several players reacted to, and indeed caused the match officials some confusion too).
Two minutes later Hearts were awarded another free kick, when Skondras brought down Jamie Walker, 20 yards from goal. Jamie Walker then struck the ball beautifully into the top corner of the net, giving Gary Woods no chance. The goal scorer then struck the side netting a wide area, after being played nicely on by skipper Don Cowie.
Accies had their first shot on target, 18 minutes from time. When Ali Crawford struck from 25 yards out on the right, but Jack Hamilton in the Hearts goal saved comfortably. Greg Docherty then sent one sailing over the crossbar from the edge of the penalty area. Martin had a shot curl just wide of goal from a 20 yard strike that almost looked like Hearts fourth.
But the Frenchman soon made up for that when with two minutes of time left, his free kick from the corner of the Accies penalty area, found its way through a ruck of bodies to sneak in at theback post. With the last action of the 90, Danny Redmond struck from the edge of the Hearts penalty area to send a shot over the crossbar.
Hearts: Hamilton, Tziolis, Walker (Johnsen 80), Djoum (Martin 63), Nicholson (Choulay 68 ), Avlonitis, Cowie, Nowak, Struna, Sowah, Goncalves. Subs Unused: Noring, Kitchen, Buaben, Smith.
Goals: Djoum 45+2, Goncalves 54, Walker 57, Martin 88.
Accies: Woods, Skondras, Imrie (Gogic 55) Docherty, Redmond, Crawford, Bingham (Tierney 73), Brophy (Gillespie 64), Donati (c), McMann, Sarris. Subs Unused: Matthews, Kurtaj, Watson, S Boyd.
Cautions: Bingham, Skondras, Gillespie.
Referee: Craig Thomson. Assistants: Stuart Stevenson & Ross Haswell. 4th Official: Barry Cook.