Hibs defeat 10-man Hamilton as race for third continues
An early Martin Boyle goal and a second half header from Josh Doig saw Hibernian claim three more points in their battle for third place, despite a spirited performance from 10-man Hamilton. Callum Watt reports.
Hibernian came into today’s game at Easter Road looking to build on their winning run, with the Hibees earning maximum points in their last three matches, defeating Dundee United, St. Mirren and Aberdeen. The Leith side were aiming to widen the gap between themselves and the Dons in the race for third in the table, which would guarantee European football for next season.
A resurgent Hamilton arrived at Easter Road fresh off the back of a 4-1 victory over Motherwell in the Lanarkshire Derby, followed up by a respectable draw away against Jim Goodwin’s St. Mirren. As seems to be the case every season, Hamilton’s form has picked up in recent weeks, as they look to avoid the drop into the Championship for the 7th straight season.
Hibs manager Jack Ross welcomed the return of Joe Newell to his starting lineup, with the Englishman replacing Alex Gogic as a midfield partner to January arrival Jackson Irvine. Meanwhile, Brian Rice made one change to the Accies team that drew with St. Mirren, as Scott Martin replaced Aaron Martin in midfield, with the latter missing out through injury.
Our university’s namesake, referee Craig Napier, got the game underway and in the first 10 minutes, Brian Rice’s pre-match comments rang true, as he explained to BBC Sport Scotland that “it doesn’t matter if we’re home or away – we’re having a go.” And have a go, they did – Hamilton had a number of chances early on as they won the first corner of the game, while a Ross Callachan volley was well saved by Hibs keeper, Ofir Marciano.
Hibs tried to get a foothold in the game with a Joe Newell free-kick floated into the box, but Christian Doidge was judged to have fouled Hamilton defender Scott McMann as they battled for the header. Hamilton continued pressing Hibs high up the pitch, however, with Paul McGinn doing well to recover and avoid conceding a corner under pressure from Marios Ogkmpoe.
The flow of the game changed in the 12th minute when Hamilton were reduced to 10 men. Jamie Hamilton brought down Martin Boyle midway into the Hamilton half as the Australian international tried to skip past him, and referee Napier deemed it to be an offence worthy of immediate dismissal.
Things went from bad to worse for Hamilton, as one minute later they found themselves behind, perhaps against the run of play. Josh Doig played the ball wide to Boyle who worked inside and found himself in enough space on the edge of the box to dispatch a pinpoint shot into the bottom corner of Ryan Fulton’s net.
Hibs began to ramp up the pressure on Hamilton as they looked to take charge of the game. Corner after corner went Hibs’ way, but nothing came from their set pieces. Irvine and Newell were running the show in midfield but their clever through balls were often cut out or saw their pass’ recipient be penalised by the assistant referee’s flag.
Hibs received a penalty in the 32nd minute after Darren McGregor headed a corner back across the box and Christian Doidge was clipped by substitute David Moyo. Boyle stepped up but his effort was the perfect height for Fulton to dive to his right and push away.
The second half began in a similar fashion to the first, with Rice’s Hamilton having a go once again. In-form striker Bruce Anderson had a powerful shot from 16 yards saved by Marciano, and a number of corners for both teams came to nothing.
Irvine burst forward in a good Hibs counter attack, played a 1-2 with Doidge, but his perfectly weighted through ball was to an offside Martin Boyle. The game looked to be petering out with neither team clinical enough in the final third, but Boyle and Doig, linking up once again, had other ideas.
Boyle beat his man, cut into the box, and clipped in a cross which deflected off Hakeem Odoffin to sit up nicely for Doig to header in from 7 yards and score his first senior goal for Hibernian.
Nothing much happened from around the 70th minute onwards, with both teams making substitutions and missing multiple chances. Hibs fans would have been pleased to see Scott Allan back on the pitch once again after he opened up about his recent health scare, and the Hamilton faithful will no doubt be pleased with their team’s endeavour to keep at it even when a man down.
Our Biggest Takeaways
- Hibs miss a lot of chances – “I already knew this!” you may say, and you’d be correct. Hibs got into good positions down both wings, with Boyle and Cadden whipping in crosses, but rarely did a green-and-white shirt get on the end of them. Hibs had 17 shots, of which only eight were on target, so as good as they are at creating, they lack that cutting edge.
- Hamilton aren’t afraid to have a go – Recent good results, especially a draw with league leaders Rangers, would suggest this and today reinforced the point. Even when down to 10 men for 78 minutes, Brian Rice’s team fought on and looked to bag a goal, and this made for a relatively entertaining game.
- Having Joe Newell back is good for Hibs – Both he and Jackson Irvine worked well together, with the pair at the centre of every Hibs attack. Irvine played a number of good through balls for Boyle and Doidge, and Newell broke up play well to allow Murphy to spray passes wide.
After starting the match well, Brian Rice felt the sending off shouldn’t have been, and that his team could’ve taken something from the match with the full complement on the pitch:
“The sending off changed the game. I’ll not get into it because I don’t want to get in trouble. Refereeing is very, very difficult, but it’s a massive turning point in the game and I thought we started the game fantastically well.
“To compete like we did with Hibs, who are rightfully third in the league… I couldn’t ask any more of them today.”
Jack Ross was happy with the three points as his team pushed on for third spot, but felt the win could have been more emphatic.
“We had to be resilient. I don’t think we had as much control of the game as I would have liked but we carried a threat.
“I think we made Ryan Fulton work often enough during the game and we took two of those opportunities really well.”
Up next for Hibernian is a home tie against 9th placed Motherwell in a week’s time, as they look to keep up their winning streak, and Hamilton will aim to return to winning ways against St Johnstone on Wednesday 3rd March.