Stuart McCall had to be content with a point on his ‘Well managerial debut after an uninspiring contest at New Douglas Park.
Chances were at a premium throughout, but the home side arguably had the clearer sights at goal, with the excellent Dougie Imrie coming close on three separate occasions.
Motherwell’s best opportunity came in the second-half after some excellent work from Jamie Murphy saw the young forward skin his marker and whip in a superb cross which deflected inches over the bar, via a combination of John Sutton and Tomas Cerny.
The new gaffer made one change to the side which lost 1-0 to Celtic in midweek under the temporary stewardship of Gordon Young, as ‘Well’s top scorer Nick Blackman returned to the starting line-up in place of Mark Fitzpatrick.
A Lanarkshire derby was a fitting occasion for a couple of Motherwell youth products to reach notable milestones, with talented centre-back Mark Reynolds playing his 200th game for the club and Scotland under-21 starlet Jamie Murphy making his 100th SPL appearance.
Despite the local importance of the fixture and the excitement surrounding the new face in the away dugout, it was a very low-key opening to matters at New Douglas Park, with both sides struggling to find any passing fluency or attacking intent.
Indeed, it took until the 20 minute mark for either side to register a noteworthy effort on goal. Gary McDonald received the ball on the edge of the ‘Well area and, with scarce options, drove a shot straight at Darren Randolph, who fielded comfortably.
‘Well responded by retaining the majority of possession, but without a real cutting edge – until they almost equalised through the most unlikely source. A Tom Hateley corner was headed away as far as Stephen Craigan on the edge of the box and the Steelmen captain smashed a half-volley narrowly over the bar with Cerny scrambling. The Northern Irishman will have to wait to end his near-five-year wait for a goal for Motherwell.
The home side were next to threaten as Dougie Imrie lashed a shot in from all of 30 yards which had to be extremely well saved by the sprawling Darren Randolph. That was immediately followed by a headed chance for the Accies as Flavio Paixao found Gary McDonald at the back-post, but the former Aberdeen man could only head wide.
Imrie was evidently Hamilton’s danger man, and he was involved in another dangerous moment as Billy Reid’s men attempted to pinch the lead before the break. The former Caley midfielder swung in a lovely cross for Flavio Paixao, but the Portuguese headed just over the bar. By this point Imrie was buzzing with confidence, and he tested Randolph again with a free-kick from distance which the big English stopper had to tip over the bar.
A Mensing header, from a Paixao corner, which drifted just wide proved to be the last action of a half in which Motherwell enjoyed plenty of the ball but, in truth, could have gone in behind on the balance of chances.
Both side traded chances early in the second half as they looked to garner an advantage from an even contest. ‘Well were first to threaten as a swift counter attack involving Gow and Blackman culminated in the on-loan Englishman firing a ferocious shot just over the bar.
Flavio Paixao and Jordan Kirkpatrick responded with shots of their own, as both players fired off target in quick succession from decent positions just outside the area.
As the game, once again, descended into a midfield battle it was becoming apparent that one goal could be enough to win it, and Accies came close to snatching the opener with just over 20 minutes left on the clock. Some industrious work on the left by Imrie, again, saw the ball delivered temptingly to the far post where Jim Goodwin arrived late to smash the ball across the face of goal, but thankfully for Motherwell there were no hooped jerseys to turn the ball home and Stevie Hammell scrambled clear.
Minutes later Hamilton has Tomas Cerny to thank for keeping the game scoreless. Jamie Murphy skipped past a rash challenge on the right and flashed a superb ball into the six-yard box where a scrambled combination of John Sutton and Cerny saw the ball squirm over the bar.
With time running out and tensions running high, Dougie Imrie should have secured the points for Hamilton with four minutes left. The gifted midfielder latched onto a hopeful through-ball, and with the ‘Well defence toiling he lashed inches wide of Randolph’s right-hand post.
[tab:As it happened]
90+3mins – FT Accies 0 – 0 Well. A late Imrie shot wide provides heart stopping moment, but the spoils are shared
73mins – Another chance for Craigan. Header from a corner this time but it dropped just over,
70mins – Oooffftt, Motherwell almost take the lead. Murph gets space on the right but his cross is saved, somehow, by Cerny.
68mins – Hateley booked!
66mins – Neither team really doing anything worth note. It’s been a poor, poor game.
55mins – Saunders has taken a knock and is replaced by Fitzpatrick. Hateley goes back into RB with Fiz in the middle of the park,
54mins – John Sutton on to replace Alan Gow.
53mins – Crowd announced as 3171! Large part of that is in the away section I’d guess!
52mins – Another shot from Kirkpatrick goes over. The youngster had much better options in the box too.
52mins – Another long range shot – this time from Kirkpatrick, ends up in the same spot as Paixao. Waaayyy over the bar!
51mins – Down the other end, Paixao has a shot from the edge that fizzes way over the bar.
50mins – Nice build-up and shot from Blackman but it goes way over the bar! Positive signs though…
46mins – Motherwell get the second half underway!
45+3mins – Half Time – Hamilton 0 – 0 Motherwell
45mins – Free-kick from Imrie forces Randolph to tip over. Not sure if it was going in but the big keeper was right to turn it over!
40mins – Nick Blackman has a shot from the edge of the box that almost takes down the scaffolding behind the goal.
37mins – Cross from Imrie (Hamilton’s danger man without doubt) is met by Paixao but his header drops over.
36mins – Jim Goodwin booked for persistent fouling. His third of the game so far…
35mins – Down the other end, Humphrey opened up space for Blackman but his low effort is well held by Cerny.
34mins – One minute later, Imrie again the creator. Teeing up Paixao who whipped in a cross for McDonald who nodded a header wide.
33mins – Motherwell are well on top but not creating. Accies almost hit against the run of play by Imrie’s shot is well saved by Randolph.
29mins – Stephen Craigan almost got his first goal for nearly 5 years but his shot dropped just wide of the post.
27mins – Paixao burst through only for Reynolds to mop up the danger at the expense of a corner. Eventually cleared by ‘Well though.
19mins – Long range shot from Gary McDonald is the first effort on target in the match. No trouble whatsoever for Randolph though.
15mins – Free-kick and a corner for the Steelmen but neither come to anything. Slow start indeed…
11mins – It’s been a slow start here at NDP! Neither team getting to grips with things… Has got colder though.
6mins – Gow had a half chance inside the area but just held on to the ball a bit too long! Great build-up play…
1min – Hamilton Kick Off!
Pre-match: Teams are out – great crowd over from Motherwell… Stuart McCall is getting a warm welcome!
Pre-match: The introducing of the match mascots was, well, emm, interesting. Finishing with the wee guy punching the big furry mascot. :-s
Pre-Match: Music at NDP is interesting… Like 1920’s swing! Strange…
Pre-Match: Teams head back into the Dressing Rooms for final prep as the Lanarkshire derby is just 10mins away! C’mon the Steelmen…
Pre-match: One change for Motherwell! Blackman in for Fitzpatrick!
Pre-match: Those 11 players have played a combined 1548 games for the club. Incredible!
Pre-match: Cracker for the Stat fans amongst you. Today’s match squad contains 11 players who have come through the Youth Ranks at Fir Park.
Pre-match: Jamie Murphy is also set to make his 100th SPL appearance for ‘Well too. Hopefully he can grab his 21st goal in the process.
Pre-match: Some points of interest… If he plays, Mark Reynolds will make his 200th appearance for Motherwell.
Pre-match: Remember, the full ninety minutes is on BBC Alba later tonight (5.30pm on Sky channel 168). Let’s hope it’s worth watching eh?
Pre-match: The SPL delegate has just arrived and is doing his pre-match inspections. It’s a cool, cloudy day here in Lanarkshire…
Pre-match: We’ve arrived at New Douglas Park for the first game of 2011. Given the weather in the last few weeks, the pitch is in good nick.
Motherwell manager Stuart McCall:
“It was a fair result; you take positives, a clean sheet, but we can be better and we will be better.
“I would’ve been a little bit happier if we had created a bit more and we’ll work on that this week.
“We can improve, there’s no doubt about that. I was quite happy with the way we started the game. We probably controlled most of the first half. Having said that, we didn’t create enough. They had a couple of chances. I thought we played some nice stuff at times.
“In the second half, we didn’t seem to get going. They had a few shots from long range.
“I’ve managed to see the last three games. For the players we’ve got middle-to-front, we’ve not created enough chances in recent games, albeit apart from today against the top three sides.
“It’s a point, it’s something to build on.”
Hamilton manager Billy Reid:
“Over the 90 minutes, I can’t argue with a draw. If anyone was going to win it, it was going to be Hamilton. We had more shots on goal, more chances. We more than matched Motherwell all over the park.
“At the moment, we’re unfortunate to not score a goal. The ball doesn’t seem to be going in the net at the moment. We had plenty of chances, the ball was dropping and still not going in,” added Reid.
“Dougie Imrie’s had a chance one-on-one at the end, he’s hit it just by the post, it’s the way it’s gone for us.
“There were plenty of positives for me. Defensively, we’re now shutting up shop, we’re looking a lot more solid. There’s nothing in the games, if we can just turn them into victories then things will turn.”