Hamilton Academical 1 v 0 Aberdeen (28.02.17)
Hamilton Academical on a cold Tuesday night. I must be mad!?
When it comes to football, close friends would probably describe me as such regardless of my attendance at this particular fixture! In all honesty this game had fallen kindly for me whilst I was away on a business trip to Scotland, and the opportunity to get a first taste of the Scottish Premiership was just too good to refuse! At least that’s what I kept telling myself anyway!
So after a short train ride from Glasgow Central to Hamilton West I found myself walking down a long dark alley way down the side of the railway line to the Stadium. The setting was such that if I had been in Russia I would have half expected to have stumbled across one of those pre match Ultras forest fight off’s, but fortunately this was Hamilton on a Tuesday night and the said long dark alley way was completely isolated and I arrived at New Douglas Park unscathed!
New Douglas Park, as the name suggests is reasonably new! It was opened in 2001 and is currently a 2-sided stadium with a 3G artificial pitch. Actually it’s a 2 and ½ sided stadium if you count the small temporary restricted view stand that’s about as wide as the diameter of the centre circle (see below). Seating about 700, I guess this is only opened up for the ‘big games’ where the away side brings a sizeable following. With a 300 mile round trip on the cards it wasn’t needed for a ‘Don’s overspill tonight!
Before I move onto the game itself, here’s an interesting fact for you pub quiz fans out there. Hamilton Academical are the only professional football club in the UK that heralds from a school football team. They were formed in late 1874 by the rector and pupils of Hamilton Academy. The club soon became members of the Scottish Football Association and initially began competing in the qualifying rounds of the Scottish Cup, before joining the Scottish Football League in November 1897 following the resignation of a club called Renton – one of the founder members of the Scottish Football League. Who said this blog wasn’t educational? Stick those little nuggets of football wisdom in your top pocket, and save them for a dull night down the boozer with your mates!
Despite Hamilton’s esteemed educational roots, ironically it was Aberdeen that learned a harsh footballing lesson on a freezing cold Tuesday night at New Douglas Park!
The away end at New Douglas Park…
After conceding a sloppy goal in the first 10 minutes Aberdeen went onto dominate this game and pretty much battered Hamilton for the next 80 minutes. But despite post-match statistics reading 70% possession, 21 corners, and 18 shots on goal, the Don’s rued a string of missed chances, and as I was watching this game unfold it seemed totally inconceivable that the Don’s would fire a blank here. But fire a blank they jolly well did!
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a team work the ball into wide areas so well and deliver as many crosses into the box as one game as Aberdeen did tonight! But despite all the possession, all the pressure, and the fact that the Hamilton penalty area resembled a pin ball machine for much of this game, the ball just wouldn’t fall kindly for Aberdeen. On the few occasions it looked like it had, the woodwork and a disallowed goal came to Hamilton’s rescue.
One player stood out a mile from all the rest and that was Ryan Mclean, the Dons no7. He looked a class act, and was behind most of Aberdeen’s finer attacking play on the night. Some exquisite first time passes, imaginative link up play and immaculate crosses he really deserved to be on the winning side on the night. If I was a scout, I would say he may get himself a bigger move on this performance, but what do I know?!
Midway through the second half a huge defensive Hamilton clearance headed high up towards the main stand and was caught cleanly by yours truly! Whilst the ball was looping up towards me, and knowing the game had been given a ‘live TV’ billing, I was under pressure to perform! Thankfully with my FA Level 2 Goalkeeping Coaching Certificate in the bag (!!) I was able to demonstrate a clean ‘scoop’ catch technique and comfortably gathered the ball into my chest (just in case any nearby strikers thought they could nab a tap in from a spill!). Textbook stuff!
As I was sat alone in a half empty block I probably gained some decent air time on BT Sport! Admittedly I was decidedly slow in returning the match ball to the Aberdeen full back that was hoping to get the ball back into play asap. For some reason I felt obliged to give the Accies back line some time to regroup before another ball was delivered into their box! I was also mindful of a group of about 30 Accies ‘youth’ who were stood to my left that would have given me a right earful if Aberdeen had scored from a quick long throw in!!
A late red card added to the tension for the ‘Accies’ die hards, and as the Aberdeen onslaught reached a crescendo, two late Hamilton counter attacks could have put an even more ridiculous slant on the score line. Unfortunately for Hamilton, they just didn’t have the legs to finish their breakaway attacks after carrying the ball 80 yards up the pitch only to be caught by the recovering Don’s defenders! Despite that, remarkably Hamilton held on to grab all 3 points!
Sadly the Scottish Premiership title race is already over with over 2 months to play. Celtic hold a 24 point over 2nd place Aberdeen, who hold a 9 point lead over 3rd placed Rangers. Whilst Aberdeen will be kicking themselves they didn’t win here tonight they won’t be losing too much sleep over this result either. The bigger picture for them is to maintain their European qualification place. At the other end of the table though the relegation battle is well and truly starting to warm up. 6 points separate the bottom 5 teams, and 8 points separate over half of the entire division! Like a pair of Kim Kardashian’s hot pants it’s tight at the bottom!
On tonight’s showing though Hamilton certainly appeared to lack the quality that will be needed to keep them in this Division, but a miracle result achieved against all the odds, and a much welcomed 3 points has catapulted them from bottom of the league to 9th!
The Accies fans certainly wouldn’t have expected 3 points tonight, but the clubs 2nd win since October 2016 has lifted the spirits and given Hamilton a glimmer of hope. And as Anne Frank once famously quoted where there’s hope there’s life! Good luck you Accies!