Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Season Review 2010/11: Hamilton Academical

Click here or read below for my season review of Hamilton Academical. It was published on The Terrace Scottish Football Podcast.

Hamilton Academical - A Season To Forget

New Douglas Park - The home of Hamilton Accies
New Douglas Park, Saturday 25th September 2010 – the day that set the tone for Hamilton's season. Accies found themselves 2-0 up at half time over Mixu Paatelainen's Kilmarnock. The home side had absolutely dominated and were unlucky not to be further ahead at the break. However, the standing ovation at half time would be replaced by stunned silence just sixty minutes later. Midfielder Simon Mensing gave away a completely unnecessary penalty when he brought down Danny Invincible with just seven minutes remaining. Tomas Cerny saved the penalty, but referee Crawford Allan ordered it to be re-taken after players had encroached into the box before Jamie Hamill had taken his shot. Second time around, Hamill slotted home and Killie proceeded to throw everything at the Accies goal. Their pressure paid off on the 89th minute when Connor Sammon redirected a shot into the goal from close range to clinch a 2-2 draw. Many Accies fans believe it was this game that set in stone the belief in the players that they could not defend a lead. It became a self-fulfilling prophecy and led to the club's ultimate demise. 

Obviously, there were other moments where Hamilton shot themselves in the foot. The Accies conceded a staggering fifteen penalties in all competitions and there is only so much a goalkeeper can do to keep them out, although Cerny did manage to save four. The seven red cards accumulated during the campaign will not have helped either, especially considering the number of injuries Accies suffered over the season. James Gibson suffered the third serious knee injury of his career in his comeback reserve match at the start of May, club captain Alex Neil was out injured for the majority of the season and so it appeared that manager Billy Reid rarely had his strongest first eleven out on the pitch at any point.

Although there were numerous setbacks throughout the 2010/11 campaign, Accies made things tough right from the start. After just two SPL games they had accumulated no points, failed to score any goals and conceded eight goals in the process. After just 180 minutes of football most bookies already had Accies down as relegation certainties.

A midweek loss to Raith Rovers in the League Cup heaped more pressure on Reid, but a Dougie Imrie screamer was enough to dispatch of Inverness Caley Thistle in the next league fixture and Accies began to find their feet. Imrie's magical left foot set up the South Lanarkshire side on an eight game scoring streak, but an underlying problem at the same time was Accies incapability to stop conceding goals. 

However, Hamilton did manage a few clean sheets, most notably in late October where they claimed a 1-0 win at Fir Park. After the match Reid came out and claimed that “if we just play our usual passing game, we'll pick up points”, but it was after this match that Hamilton failed to win in their next twenty-two league games - a damning statistic that simply is not good enough for any club expecting to stay in the SPL.

The elusive win to buck the trend came at Easter Road in mid April, but the problem for Accies was that they only had five remaining fixtures to turn over their nine point deficit at the bottom of the league. They managed to pick up a respectable seven in the remaining ties and even secured what would be their only home league win, beating Hibs 1-0. Despite the valiant effort by the stricken Accies, it was too little and too late to manage the great escape from relegation.

Reid would often come out after matches lamenting his side's lack of “rub of the green”, but it would be false to attribute this as the prime reason for Accies demise. When a team are on the back foot for long spells of football matches they will undoubtedly concede more fouls, freekicks, penalties and red cards, even if some of the decisions are indeed incorrect. 

Reid was always quick to praise the efforts of his players and Hamilton were well known for their attractive style of play, but ultimately, when your top goalscorer (Mickael Antoine-Curier) only manages to score five goals (two were penalties) you do not need to be a nuclear scientist to work out that Accies struggled to put the ball in the back of the net. 

Despite Reid professing after one match that “you can't tell me St Mirren are a better team than Hamilton Accies - I can't have that”, I am sure, with time, he will admit that Accies just were not good enough to stay in the SPL. Losing James McArthur in July 2010 was probably the final nail in the coffin for the club. Reid tried his best to bring in suitable short term replacements but his efforts were in the end, futile. 

The season of 2010/11 will be one Hamilton will hope to forget as soon as possible and what better way to do so, by winning promotion from Division One at the first time of asking. Reid has already made a few decent signings which includes the addition of Queen of the South talisman, Willie McLaren. To be fair, this upcoming season would have to be a capitulation of epic proportions if results are not an improvement compared to the monstrosity of the campaign just past.

written by Will Lyon

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