Phil McGhee at Fir Park
Motherwell failed to halt a poor run as Hamilton earned a derby win for the first time in eight games. And although second half goals from Rakish Bingham and Greg Docherty were enough to take all three points back across the Clyde, it took a debatable penalty, converted by Dougie Imrie five minutes from half time, to bring Accies into the game.
Until then, the Fir Parkers had looked comfortable and likely to add to Craig Tanner’s early strike. However, despite making the ideal start and being fired up for the challenge, the Steelmen never looked like over turning Accies’ two goal lead.
It was perhaps fitting that on the 10th anniversary of Phil O’Donnell’s tragic death, that Hamilton, his home town team, provided the opposition. Poignantly everyone inside Fir Park celebrated a minutes applause before the kick-off.
Prior to that Louis Moult, sidelined with a hamstring injury for the last six games, took a farewell bow before his departure to Preston.
In addition to Moult’s absence, ‘Well were still understrength for the final match of 2017 with injury and suspension depriving them of Charles Dunne and Carl McHugh, with Stevie Hammell and Alan Campbell being recalled to the starting line-up. There was also a start for George Newell alongside Ryan Bowman.
However, after forcing a double save from Accies ‘keeper Gary Woods within the opening two minutes, Bowman turned goal provider. Although his low across goal eluded Newell, Tanner was racing in behind to smash the ball high past Woods for his sixth goal of the season and give ‘Well a perfect start.
Ten minutes later, it was almost a carbon copy when Bowman again crossed from the left wing only for Tanner to fire the ball into the side netting.
Although the Steelmen held the upper hand and had series of tempting balls into the Accies box, there were no clear-cut chances to add a second goal.
After 35 minutes a challenge from Xavier Tomas caught Campbell. Tanner’s free kick was cleared to Gael Bigirimana and his drive for goal was deflected off the arm of an Accies defender. But despite strong appeals for a penalty, referee Andrew Dallas pointed to the corner flag.
Five minutes later, and from a similar situation, the referee had other thoughts when in attempting to block Ali Crawford’s shot from the edge of the box, Peter Hartley was adjudged to have used his arm.
Amidst the Motherwell protests, Dougie Imrie kept his cool to slide the spot kick into the corner of the net and bring Accies back into the game.
Just before the interval Campbell limped off to be replaced by Liam Grimshaw.
Worse was to follow for the home side nine minutes into the second half when Accies took the lead. Hartley’s attempted clearance fell kindly for Rakish Bingham and, despite having Tait in pursuit, the Hamilton striker dragged the ball into the box before firing across Carson and into the far corner of the goal.
‘Well brought on another forward, Alex Fisher replacing Andy Rose, as they increased the pressure on the Accies goal.
Bigirimana swung in a cross to put Woods under pressure, but the ‘keeper bravely punched clear with Hartley challenging. From the resultant corner, Hartley’s attempt to reach Tanner’s ball was impeded by Tomas but, despite appeals for a penalty, play continued.
With 18 minutes remaining Ross McLean took over from the hard running Newell, but before his introduction could have any impact Accies grabbed a third to claim all three points.
Unmarked at the corner of the box, Greg Docherty cut inside before firing the ball low and hard beyond Carson to give Accies a much needed win and leave Motherwell facing the New Year on the end of a long run of disappointment.
Motherwell were even denied the consolation of an injury time goal and a first for Fisher when his effort from a few yards was brilliantly stopped by Woods.