A Scottish Cup fourth round thriller at New Douglas Park ended in victory for underdogs Hamilton as they beat Ross County 5-3 on penalties after a 0-0 draw.
It was bottom of the Championship against bottom of the Premiership in Lanarkshire as Hamilton and Ross County competed for a place in the cup’s last 16.
The Staggies started the brightest, when Kazeem Oliagbe forced Accies Goalkeeper Ryan Fulton into action after just two minutes with a 25-yard effort which went down the keeper’s throat.
Eight minutes in Ross County had their best chance of the 90 minutes as Yan Dhanda worked the ball into a dangerous position with a low cross from the right side of the pitch. However, Jordy Hiwula’s tame effort from 6 yards out was tipped behind by the ever present Fulton.
Dhanda was causing Hamilton problems again and fifteen minutes in twisted and turned inside the 18-yard box with his cut back to Owura Edwards flying over the bar from an area he will feel he should do better in. Ross County’s chances and corners then started to die out as they never struck whilst the iron was hot.
Half way into the first half, Hamilton found their best chance of the 90 minutes through some good link up play. County’s Ross Laidlaw had to get low to block Jean-Pierre Tiehi’s effort and turn it behind for a corner, which came to nothing.
An otherwise relatively quiet first half saw Tom Sparrow receive the match’s first yellow card after stopping a Ross County counter-attack.
Malky Mackay went to his bench to look for a solution, as on-loan Nohan Kennah never returned to play, being replaced by Canadian Victor Loturi.
Ross Callachan then became the first Ross County player to receive a yellow card fifty minutes in, as he when he fouled Andy Winter. The away side ramped up the pressure as they looked for the opener, but to no avail as Fulton stopped the afore-mentioned Callachan when he drove one towards the goal. Sixty minutes in and Callachan was involved again – this time his header forcing Ryan Fulton into a reflex save to stop the ball crossing the line.
Jordan White then replaced Hiwula up top for Ross County as Mackay used his bench yet again and six minutes later Chrissy McGinn was replaced by Brian Easton as he withdrew with muscle tightness.
Hamilton brought on Andy Ryan and Dario Zanatta before the end of the ninety, with Jean-Pierre Tiehi and Lewis Smith coming off.
And it was the home side who came closest late on, as Accies midfielder Lucas De Bolle sent an effort flying towards goal from 20-yards with 5 minutes left, only for Ross Laidlaw to tip it over the crossbar.
As the two teams headed towards penalties, Josh Sims replaced Oliagbe for Ross County. Neither team could break the deadlock and the tie would be determined by penalties.
Ross County found themselves in immediate trouble, as after Zanatta put Accies 1-0 up, Jordan White was stopped by the brilliant Ryan Fulton. As the penalties went on, Winter, McGowan and Martin all scored for Accies whilst County replied through Loturi, Cancola and Akio, which left Andy Ryan in a position that if he scored Hamilton would advance.
Ryan stepped up and made it 5-3 on penalties, much to the jubilance of the home support.
It was the Lanarkshire’s third consecutive win in three different competitions as they showed signs that they could be turning their season around. Next up for them, difficult league trip to Firhill to face Partick Thistle. Meanwhile, County face Kilmarnock who are second bottom – defeat would see them lie six points adrift.
What the managers said…
Malky Mackay thought his Ross County side “in general, were excellent”.
“The first half, it should have been out of sight.”
Winning manager John Rankin, has hopes that the momentum will have a positive impact on his teams upcoming tough league run-in.
“We have Partick Thistle next week and we’re already preparing for that.”
“Our players did between 16 and 18 kilometres this afternoon, so we need to look after them this week and make sure that they’re ready to go again next week.”
Goalkeeper and Man of the Match Ryan Fulton had his say, he wants “the big two” for Hamilton as he’s looking forward to coming up against one of the countries best.