Hamilton v Saints preview
By Stuart Gillespie
Updated Monday, 16th January 2012
A cup replay away to a lower league side. What could possibly go wrong? Er, actually, probably best if you don't answer that one!
Times like these make you wish the Scottish Cup was like the League Cup and ties were finished on the day. Sure, it would have meant another tedious half hour - and possibly penalties - being added to the borefest against Hamilton 10 days ago but that has got to be preferable to a whole new game and forking out even more money.
Do not go to this for entertainment - Billy Reid has already said he doesn't intend to change his style of play. Do go to this if you are a narcoleptic or are a sadomasochist. It will not be pretty. It will not be exciting. It will be dull and boring - and, considering what's happened when we've been in this situation before, it could well end in disaster.
Danny Lennon has to ditch the passing style for this one. It did not work in the original game because Hamilton were happy to let us have the ball while the merrily assembled themselves behind it. Gaps did not open up. There was no chance of us hitting them on the break. I am not advocating a full on switch to a 1980s style Wimbledon, but we do need to come up with a plan B - because plan A didn't work before and almost certainly won't work again.
This game could play a pivotal point in our season. We are currently struggling for form and the nature of Saturday's defeat to Hearts was shambolic. A defeat to a lower league side in a cup for the second time in the space of a few months could have a huge blow to our moral. Our chances of making the top six are fading with every game and losing to Hamilton could psychologically finish us off. We need to win, otherwise we could well end up fighting the drop once again.
The good news from Saturday was that Steven Thompson is fit again and also found the back of the net. He's probably not scored as many goals as he would like since joining in the summer but the fact he's got two in his list three games hopefully signals his luck is turning. We were found wanting without him in Paisley and his presence up front could make things rather different. However, that will only happen if we pair him with another striker so Nigel Hasselbaink has to start alongside in a little and large partnership.
While Thompson returned at Tynecastle, Jim Goodwin did not and he isn't expected to be back until Saturday's game at the earliest. There are growing concerns about David Barron's ability to deputise for the captain in midfield so Hugh Murray or Steven Thomson could end up slotting in there. We don't really have many other options so expect to see the rest of the team along similar lines. The only possible option is bringing Aaron Mooy in for one of Gary Teale or Graham Carey - replacing one of them with Murray or Thomson would be a rather defensive move!
If there's one consolation to take from the original game in Paisley it's the fact Reid didn't come out of it afterwards muttering about how his outfit were by far the better footballing side and had passed us off the park. That would have been his most delusional ramblings yet - good going considering some of the mince he uttered last season - and for that we should be thankful. However, I don't envy Hamilton fans if that anti-football is what they have to watch every week. By all means be tight and defensive but don't go to extremes.
It says a lot about Hamilton that their better players that day were defensively minded - aside from Dougie Imrie, who was as lively as ever when he wasn't falling over. Martin Canning and Mark McLaughlin were solid at the back and nearly scored, while Simon Mensing merrily kicked everything that moved until he got booked, at which point he started kicking things with not quite as much force. Accies have since added another giant to their team in the shape of our own Jon McShane, although he can't play as he's cup tied - and the loan deal wouldn't have allowed it. However, it was another loan striker - Greig Spence - who scored the winner in Accies' meeting with Partick Thistle on Friday night and they're now on a bit of form. They've won their last two league games and drew the one in between, which was against us.
Worryingly, Hamilton should have two handy players available that were injured for their trip to Paisley. We barely tested David Hutton the last time but he is likely to be benched with Tomas Cerny fit from injury. And with Alex Neil back in midfield the Accies might even be a bit more attacking at times as he picks and places his passes. Wouldn't that be nice?
And just think - if we get through all that we've got a home tie against first division leaders Ross County to look forward to...
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