HAMILTON 1–1 COVE RANGERS
Luis Longstaff’s first goal of the campaign gave us hope in what had been dubbed a ‘must win’ game, but the lead lasted just a few minutes, and despite some big chances in the second half, the boys were unable to secure what would have been a massive victory in Lanarkshire.
In addition, Paul Hartley was forced to make a series of substitutions as Blair Yule, Scott Fox and Miko Virtanen all limped from the pitch.
With long-term absentees Fraser Fyvie and Brody Paterson ruled out, and David Bangala joining them on the sidelines, the manager made three changes from last week. Ross and Reynolds replaced Naismith and Neill at the heart of the defence while, with Leighton McIntosh only fit enough for a place on the bench, Cieran Dunne returned to the starting line-up. Michael O’Halloran linked-up with Mitch Megginson through the middle.
Accies were unchanged from their midweek win at Raith.
In the bright Lanarkshire sunshine Cove made the better start and were seeing plenty of the ball in the opening stages without being able to create any clear cut chances.
Hamilton’s first attack came in the fourth minute, Lewis Smith winning a free-kick twenty yards out, but Connor Smith’s angled strike was easily gathered by Scott Fox.
We continued to enjoy the bulk of the possession with Cieran Dunne and Luis Longstaff prominent on the wings, but the home defence proved resolute and blocked a series of crosses. Connor Scully had our first effort on goal in the eighth minute, his twenty-five yard shot comfortably saved by Fulton.
Dunne then won our first corner, and after Longstaff rolled a low ball to Scully, the midfielder chipped an excellent ball across the area. Blair Yule rose highest, but guided his header from six yards over the bar.
The team continued to press and came close in the seventeenth minute. Jackson Longridge found Dunne in the box from a throw-in on the left, Cieran cleverly made space and clipped a cross to the back post, but with Longstaff lurking, Tumilty scrambled the ball behind for a corner.
Shay Logan then sent Longstaff away down the right, and after beating two defenders Luis whipped in a dangerous cross, but McGowan got his head to the ball to clear.
Blair Yule then crumpled to the ground after making a block challenge to prevent Hamilton from breaking away. Following treatment from physio, Aimee Clark, he limped to the touchline before signalling he would attempt to continue.
Reghan Tumilty picked up the game’s first booking for scything down Michael O’Halloran as Cove mounted a threatening counter-attack, but the resultant free-kick came to nothing.
Having bravely attempted to play on, Yule then had to admit defeat and was replaced by Miko Virtanen.
Within seconds, Ashley-Seal burst through the middle, shrugging off the challenge of Mark Reynolds, and as Fox dived to make the save, the giant hitman clattered into the keeper. The referee immediately blew for a free-kick, but Cove lost a second player to injury, Kyle Gourlay coming on for his stricken team-mate.
Accies nearly broke the deadlock in first half stoppage time. A ball from the right was headed across the box by O’Reilly and took a big deflection. As it bounced beyond Gourlay, Longridge was quickest to react, racing back to clear off the goal-line.
Despite having lost two key men to injury, it had been a committed opening period from the team during which the defence had looked more solid than of late. The only disappointment was the failure to create any clear openings at the other end.
Hamilton did just that early in the second half when Martin clipped a ball over the top for Lewis Smith to run on to. With Gourlay having initially sped from his line, then stopped, the winger had time, but could only nudge a weak effort straight at the keeper.
It was then our turn to threaten, and after a switch of play, Longstaff fired in a cross from the right. O’Halloran got above his marker, but could not make proper contact, and his header flew wide of the post.
Minutes later, we did make the breakthrough.
Luis LONGSTAFF gathered on the right, cut in past one defender, changed direction into the box, and having made a yard of space, fired a low angled drive into the bottom corner for his first goal of the season.
The lead was to last less than five minutes. From a short corner, De Bolle’s cross hit the arm of Shay Logan, and referee Roncone pointed to the spot. Connor SMITH sent Gourlay the wrong way with a confidently struck penalty.
The luck continued to go against us with Miko Virtanen the latest player to require treatment, the Finn suffering a broken wrist while making a challenge in midfield. After a lengthy stoppage, he left the field to be replaced by Iain Vigurs, with Tony Weston taking over from Cieran Dunne.
Both sides then spurned big chances to go in front.
Hamilton had the first opportunity when Stephenson raced in behind the back line, but Scott Ross did enough to put him off, and Kyle Gourlay was able to save the shot with his foot.
Longstaff then sent in a cross which O’Reilly headed up into the air. Scully got to the bouncing ball ahead of the defenders, but couldn’t quite make full contact, and his effort bobbled into the side-netting.
The game was now wide open, and Cove created two big openings.
Vigurs and Longstaff combined, Megginson took a touch and teed-up Scully, but Connor was stretching, and when he got his shot away, it was quickly charged down.
Next, it was Longstaff and Megginson linking up, freeing McIntosh to run deep into the box, but his low cross was grabbed by Fulton.
In the third minute of stoppage time Megginson found McIntosh, and Leighton’s flick into space saw Tony Weston racing over the halfway line. He jinked past a challenge into the area and fired low and hard at the near post, Fulton saving the shot for a corner.
Vigurs took that, driving a dangerous ball low into the area. Reynolds diverted it goalwards and Mitch Megginson got a flick, but his instinctive effort soared just over the bar.
It was to be our last attempt on goal, the draw leaving the team two points adrift at the foot of the table with just four games remaining.
HAMILTON: (4-2-3-1) Fulton; Sparrow, O’Reilly, McGowan, Tumilty; Martin; L. Smith, (Zanatta 62), Lawson, De Bolle (Stephenson 62), C. Smith; Ashley-Seal
Substitutes: J. Smith, Easton, Spence, Winter, Owens, McGinn
Goalscorers: C. Smith (pen 61)
Booked: Tumilty (33)
COVE RANGERS: (4-4-2) Fox (Gourlay 42); Logan, Ross, Reynolds, Longridge; Longstaff, Yule (Virtanen 36), (Vigurs 73), Scully, Dunne (Weston 73); O’Halloran (McIntosh 65), Megginson (c)
Substitutes: Naismith, Neill, Glass
Goalscorers: Longstaff (57)
Booked: Virtanen (50), Longridge (53), Scully (78), Ross (90), Vigurs (90)
Referee: Mike Roncone
Article Copyright © 2023. Permission to use quotations from this article online is only granted subject to appropriate source credit and to www.coverangersfc.com