St Mirren 3-1 Hamilton 02/04/2011

Higdon hat-trick condemns Accies to certain relegation.

Hamilton’s time in the top flight of Scottish football appears all but doomed, after losing 3-1 to St Mirren in Paisley this afternoon.

A hat-trick from St Mirren striker Michael Higdon was enough to give the home side victory, having gone down 1-0 just before half-time to a David Buchanan goal.

With the SPL relegation battle being played out by St Mirren and Hamilton, the basement clubs met at St Mirren Park, both seeking to grab three points which could mean SPL survival.

With St Mirren conceding late goals as if they were heading out of fashion, and Hamilton failing to record a single victory in 2011, both teams went into the game with their frailties open to criticism, but nonetheless looking to assert themselves as the team to beat relegation.

With the teams producing two draws in their previous encounters this season, you got the feeling a draw would suit neither team today.

From the first whistle the home side were in the face of the visitors, looking to kill off any chance Hamilton had of staying in the Premier League. Billy Reid’s side were struggling to assert themselves in the game, with St Mirren pushing forward early on.

The St Mirren players were showing a resolute determination to get to the first ball, and challenging for every second one, putting Hamilton under pressure without any end product to show for their hard effort.

If the opening stages of the game were anything to go by, only one side gave the impression they knew it was their very livelihoods at stake in this match.

The first chance of the match however, almost found its way to Hamilton. After St Mirren looked to have a Hamilton attack under control, James McAlister found himself inside the Buddies’ area, only to be caught flat-footed and thus, the opportunity being lost.

Hamilton’s Alexander Neil then tried his luck from distance after the ball broke from an Accies’ corner, only for his effort to sail over Paul Gallacher’s goal.

As Hamilton looked for a way into the game, they took a more physical approach to try dealing with St Mirren’s assured manner. Gary McDonald was first to go into Willie Collum’s book for a crunching tackle on Kenny McLean.

The Saints then failed to punish some slack Hamilton defending, after a free kick from midfielder Kenny McLean. His ball into the area fell six yards from goal, with the watching St Mirren players not responding to the opportunity.

Hamilton almost opened the scoring against the run of play in the 26th minute, when McAlister was played into the box by an industrious Hasslebaink. As he lined up the shot, he fired straight at Paul Gallacher, with the keeper saving well, to then collect the ball comfortably. A sure let off for the home side.

As Hamilton wete starting to get a foothold in the game, the frustrations of the home fans began to grow, with St Mirren failing to build on their early pressure.

Michael Higdon tried in vain to appease the frustrations from the stands with an audacious effort from distance. Needless to say the effort fizzled wide, and again the moans and groans were heard throughout St Mirren Park.

For the endeavour St Mirren had shown in the opening stages of the match, they were beginning to get wasteful in possession, needlessly gifting Hamilton the ball and openings, offering them a way into the game.

Hamilton were then presented with a golden chance to go one up after a counter attack from a St Mirren corner. As the visitors broke through McAlister, the advancing Paixao found himself through, one on one with goalkeeper Gallacher. As he advanced toward goal, Paixao tried an audacious lob, only to see his effort palmed away by the oncoming Gallacher.

As St Mirren scrambled back into defence, Alister Crawford tried his luck with Gallacher off his line, only for the shot to drop just wide of goal.

As Hamilton continued to grow in confidence and the home support beginning to get weary, it looked as though it would take something special, or at least a mistake for the breakthrough to come. Step up David Buchanan.

It was in the 42nd minute Hamilton breathed a lease of life into their survival chances, with a superbly taken strike from Buchanan. After some neat work to hold up play from Hasselbaink, the ball found its way to Buchanan, who rifled an absolutely phenomenal strike from all of 25 yards into the top corner of Paul Gallacher’s goal, sending the away support into an elated frenzy.

It was nothing short of what Hamilton deserved, after riding the early storm from Danny Lennon’s team. The cards were now on the table from Billy Reid’s side, who continue to fight for survival.

As Willie Collum blew for half time, the frustrations of the home support spilled over, with the anger being directed at the departing players and management team.

St Mirren returned for the second half unchanged, much to the disbelief of the Buddies’ faithful.

As the second half got underway, Hamilton were looking to hold on to a precious lead, one which would take them to within three points of St Mirren.

St Mirren almost equalised not long after the break after Lee Mair found himself unmarked in the Hamilton box. After a corner from Kenny McLean was headed back across goal, Mair fired a tame effort toward goal, with Thomas Cerny saving comfortably.

St Mirren were now being presented with the chances to find a goal, this time going close through Steven Thomson. The midfielder’s effort however failed to test Cerny, with Thomson blasting of the side netting.

St Mirren had come to life, getting forward and in and around the Hamilton area, without any killer touch about their play.

Danny Lennon then looked to change the fortunes and shape of St Mirren, bringing on Craig Dargo for Jim Goodwin.

As Hamilton looked to break on the counter attack, Crawford was taken out with a cynical tackle from Hugh Murray, with the Buddies player going into the book for his trouble.

The game burst into life just after the hour mark as St Mirren scored twice in the space of two minutes. The first goal came after Hugh Murray’s floated pass found van Zanten surging down the right flank. The attacking full back proceeded to swing the ball across goal for Higdon to head in at the back post.

No sooner had the goal gone in and St Mirren were again on the attack. After a hopeful ball forward, Craig Dargo charged down on goal, only to be hauled back by Hamilton’s Martin Canning. Without hesitation, referee Collum pointed to the spot, and subsequently sent Canning off, much to the delight of the home support.

With the pressure on, up stepped Michael Higdon to confidently dispatch the penalty, sending Thomas Cerny the wrong way across goal. As the net rippled, so did the euphoria of the home side, now having the upper hand against a ten man Hamilton side.

The substitution of Goodwin for Canning was paying dividends for Danny Lennon, as Higdon made it 3-1 for St Mirren. After van Zanten fed Dargo down the right, the plucky attacker picked out Higdon with a precisely weighted pass, with Higdon then superbly connecting on the half-volley to fire past a helpless Cerny.

Higdon fires in the last goal to complete the hat-trick

Hamilton now looked all but consigned to first division football, as St Mirren had a stranglehold of the game against their nearest rivals. Billy Reid cut an isolated figure on the sidelines, now being 3-1 down after taking the lead in Paisley.

St Mirren should have made it four shortly after, with Higdon and Dargo again linking up. After Higdon was played into the area, the lanky striker turned to lay off the advancing Craig Dargo, with the striker opening up his body to fire just over the bar.

It was to be Higdon’s last act, as he left the field to a hero’s reception, being replaced by Patrick Cregg. Some inside the ground couldn’t work out why Higdon had being replaced so prematurely, with only two goals the difference between the sides. Perhaps overconfidence edged in from Danny Lennon, having got the introduction of Craig Dargo spot on?

St Mirren were now knocking the ball about with ease, looking to see out a game which would undoubtedly provide SPL survival this term.

As a depleted Hamilton tried in vain to get themselves back into the match, the nerves of the home support were still slightly fragile, having witnessed their side ship several late goals against opposition in recent times.

As the game drew to a close it was all one way traffic, with Hamilton offering little going forward and St Mirren cementing a hard-fought victory over the Accies.

As the final whistle from Willie Collum sounded, Greenfield Road erupted with delight, having watched their team take another monumental step away from the bottom of the table.

The defeat all but leaves Billy Reid’s side facing certain relegation and the prospect of playing first division football next season. One now has to wonder if Reid will regret the stubbornness he has displayed this season in changing the style of football Hamilton play.

The win for St Mirren will give Danny Lennon a sense of relief, after watching his side develop a habit of conceding late goals, resulting in the Buddies throwing away perilous points in the process.

With the sides due to meet once more after the split, this victory could provide a massive psychological edge for Danny Lennon and his team, as Billy Reid’s Hamilton stare into the abyss.


Teams:

St Mirren:

1 Gallacher

2 van Zanten

5 Mair

7 Murray

8 Thomson

10 Higdon (75, Cregg)

11 Goodwin (59, Dargo)

14 Mcgregor

16 Travner

19 McGowan

45 McLean (91, Mooy)

Subs:

12 Samson

43 McKernon

33 Mooy

6 Potter

9 Dargo

27 Cregg

17 McAusland

Hamilton:

1 Cerny

4 Canning

8 McDonald

10 Neil

11 McAlister

12 Buchanan

17 Crawford

28 Paixao

25 Elebert

30 Hasselbaink (77, Gillespie)

36 Elliot

Subs:

19 Murdoch

3 Skelton

5 Graham

15 Wildig

16 Chambers

24 Gillespie

99 Antoine-Curier


Bookings:

St Mirren:

Murray

Higdon

Hamilton:

McDonald

Sending Offs:

Canning

Man of the Match:

Michael Higdon

Referee:

Willie Collum

Attendance:

4,895

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