Our web reporter Mark Gillespie with Saturday’s victory details…
Saturday 16thMarch at 3pm
Hamilton Academical 1 Heart of Midlothian 0
Aaron McGowan’s sensational first half strike was enough to claim three valuable points and move us six points clear of the danger zone. A resolute Accies were a side transformed from last weekend’s derby disappointment, holding out for a first win over Hearts since August 2015.
Brian Rice now wants his players to be hungry for more days like this, starting at Rugby Park a week on Saturday. He gave his thoughts post-match.
“We’ll prepare and go again. I’ve just challenged the players after the game. I believe in them. Why should it always be the big teams who get two or three wins in a row?”
“This week I must admit the boys have been brilliant. I made a few notes after Motherwell and we had a frank discussion on Monday watching the first half. My criticism is always constructive, never personal.”
“I thought the boys were fantastic today, well organised and we nullified Hearts to an extent. I’m absolutely delighted for them and for the fans.”
“Aaron’s goal was a great finish. We worked on certain aspects this week on getting our wing backs into the box against their full backs, and I’m pleased that’s paid off.”
Saturday’s soon to be hero was the only new face in the side which lost in the Lanarkshire derby, with Tshiembe starting this one on the bench.
Our opponents meanwhile made four changes from their midweek cup victory. Haring, Brandon, Vanecek and Morrison all returned to a Hearts side seeking a return to their early season form.
We were determined to make a better start after Fir Park and it made for a tight opening 10 minutes. But signs were slowly encouraging, with Mickel Miller getting on the end of a couple of half chances.
Oakley set up the Accies top scorer for a first sight of goal on 10 minutes, Zlamal, just getting in front of him to block his header behind. Ten minutes later MacKinnon played him in with a deft lofted through ball, but his effort was high and wide of the advancing keeper’s goal.
It seemed to spark a ponderous Hearts side into life, as they almost grabbed the opener a minute later. Callum Morrison burst through to the edge of the Accies box, but his shot drifted just inches wide of Gary Woods’ right-hand post.
Accies still continued to carry the greater first half threat, finding real width, with McGowan and Lenny Sowah getting forward into some good areas. The opener almost arrived on 32 minutes as Andreu hoisted in a corner for McGowan, but his free header was an easy gather for Zlamal.
McGowan was to make amends four minutes later with his first goal for the club. This time Miller drilled an inch perfect ball in from the left to the far post. McGowan controlled his first-time effort superbly, allowing the ball to come across him and finding Zlamal’s far corner.
It could have been even better two minutes later, Accies again finding a lot of joy down the left. Sowah’s cross was just cleared, falling to MacKinnon who fired just over from the edge of the box.
Hearts had been off the pace but were still almost level in the run up to the break. With Accies struggling to clear a Sean Clare corner, Vanecek struck the bar. The rebound fell to Djoum, but Alex Gogic was back to clear off the line.
The onus was on the visitors to step things up in the second 45. Ikpeazu was introduced to try and alter the tide. Hearts saw more of the ball, but didn’t do much to worry a compact Accies back four.
Instead we might have doubled our lead on 56 minutes, Gogic’s header deflected over from a Tony Andreu corner.
Hearts had used all their subs for the final hour as they pressed the game, but they were to be frustrated, with Kilgallon and Gordon a rock at the back.
A couple of half chances fell for Ikpeazu and Haring into the closing stages, but our defensive resolve grew to give Gary Woods one his quietest afternoons between the sticks.
It was a great day for Dougie Imrie to come off the bench for his 500th appearance in Scottish football, to the warm appreciation of the Accies fans.
Accies: Woods, Gordon, McGowan, Kilgallon, Oakley (McMillan, 70), Miller, Gogic, MacKinnon (c), Andreu (Tshiembe, 78 ), Martin (Imrie, 90), Sowah Subs Unused: Fulton, L Smith, Boyd, Mimnaugh
Accies Goals: McGowan, 36
Hearts: Zlamal, Souttar, Berra, Haring, Clare, Djoum, Garuccio, Mulraney (Keena, 55), Brandon (Wighton, 66), Vanecek(Ikpeazu, 46), Morrison; Subs Unused: Doyle, Bozanic, Cochrane, Dikamona
Referee: Willie Collum, Assistants: David McGeachie and Alan Mulvanny; 4th Official: Colin Steven