Motherwell made the short journey home in the knowledge that their first win of the season over Hamilton guaranteed they would be safe from the automatic relegation spot.
Mark O’Hara’s goal late in the first half also meant the Steelmen are all but safe from the relegation battle this season with what should be a safe total of 41 points with three games remaining.
On Hamilton’s artificial surface it was a challenging 90 minutes for both teams but ‘Well dictated most of the play and with a watertight defence never looked conceding a goal or the crucial three points.
After limping off with cramp towards the end of last Friday’s cup tie with Morton, Allan Campbell was fit for a place in a Motherwell side showing two changes. Tyler Magloire returned to form a back three alongside Declan Gallagher and Ricki Lamie. And with O’Hara fit to make his first start in midfield, that allowed Stephen O’Donnell and Nathan McGinley the freedom to press forward and make it five across the middle of the park.
Desperate to take their first point of the season from their Lanarkshire rivals and subsequently ensure they would be clear of the automatic relegation spot, the Fir Park men were on the front foot from the start.
Hamilton’s desire for the points and their own top-flight survival was evident and within a minute Hakeem Odoffin had the chance to open the scoring but pulled his volley across the goal.
After that, though, ‘Well pretty much bossed the first half.
In the first of four rehearsed corners in the opening 12 minutes, Christopher Long’s short pass allowed O’Hara to whip the ball to the back of the six-yard box where Lamie’s powerful header was blocked.
With 10 minutes played Long popped up on the other wing to set up Devante Cole and his curling shot from the corner of the box forced Kyle Gourlay to push the ball behind his left-hand post.
As Liam Kelly regularly pinpointed either O’Donnell or McGinley deep in the Accies half, the home side seldom offered any threat on the ‘Well ‘keeper’s goal.
Just as the game became rather sterile, the Fir Park men produced the best move of the game and the opening goal shortly after Ronan Hughes was dismissed for a reckless challenge for the hosts.
Stephen O’Donnell and Long combined to work the ball across the field to McGinley who moved the ball back across the box to the unmarked O’Hara.
He had time to turn and pick his spot guiding the ball across the Gourlay and inside the ‘keeper’s right-hand post to make it 1-0 and put the visitors in the driving seat.
A minute before the interval the lead was almost doubled. Again O’Donnell was involved wide on the right and when the ball found Cole at the corner of the six-yard box he quickly swivelled before firing the ball just over the bar.
Not surprisingly, with three points on their home pitch absolutely essential, Accies started the second half more determined but from a free kick and then a corner into the six yard area, Kelly remain untroubled.
To be fair at the other end Gourlay was pretty much a spectator and even from a promising position O’Hara’s free kick failed to test the Accies defence.
Twenty minutes into the half Graham Alexander made his first substitution at the expense of Long.
In a tactical change Barry Maguire came into the midfield allowing O’Hara to move further upfield and support Cole.
A minute later Kelly made his first save. A long ball upfield found Bruce Anderson in the centre of the penalty area but his shot was straight into the arms of the ‘Well ‘keeper.
After that the Steelmen largely controlled play towards the home goal.
Despite having plenty of possession in and around the Accies box Gourlay was seldom tested until the 76th minute when Cole’s drive from 18 yards gave the ‘keeper a comfortable save.
With three minutes remaining and Accies pushing everyone forward ‘Well had a great opportunity to kill the game on the break.
After winning a couple of challenges at the edge of his own box Campbell carried the ball towards Accies’ sole defender. With O’Hara and Cole on either side of him, Campbell picked out the latter but the striker found his path to goal blocked and the chance was gone.
As nothing emerged from the four minutes added time, Motherwell comfortably protected their lead to gain a 12-point advantage over second-bottom Kilmarnock.