After a brilliant start to Brian Rice’s tenure as Accies boss, Rice faced his first away match away to Hibernian on Saturday. The Hibees have had a very disappointing season so far, currently sitting in 8th place in the Scottish Premiership table. Neil Lennon left the club nearly three weeks ago and Hibs were struggling to line-up a replacement. Leicester City assistant, Michael Appleton was the first choice candidate and was always in the pole position until negotiations fell through which handed second choice Paul Heckingbottom the role. The former Barnsley and Leeds United boss was appointed on Wednesday afternoon and was poised to be in the dug-out on Saturday for his first match in charge of the Leith side.
Hibs new boss Paul Heckingbottom played the exact same side that beat League One side Raith Rovers in the Scottish Cup last weekend.
Brian Rice continued to play his attacking football and made three changes from the fantastic victory over St Johnstone. Dougie Imrie, Steven Boyd and Steve Davies all were dropped and replaced by Mickel Miller, Tony Andreu and David McMillan.
The match got underway in the capital and it was the hosts who started best. After six minutes Hibs had three opportunities in quick succession to score. Firstly, Florian Kamberi was slid in the clear by Mark McNulty but his effort was well saved by Woods and then Stevie Mallan’s follow up deflected to Mark Milligan who volleyed just wide. The next chance came to the visitors, when a free-kick was flicked on by Aaron McGowan. It found David McMillan before his acrobatic effort was pounced on by Tony Andreu, but Ofir Marciano held on to the powerful effort.
The deadlock was broken in bizzare fashion after 17 minutes. The ball was worked out to Daryl Horgan on the right-wing. The Irishman cut onto his right foot before delivering a perfect cross into the box, which beat everyone and somehow ended up in the back of the net, although im sure Kamberi will be claiming he got a touch, like most good strikers do. The home side came ever so close to doubling their lead after 32 minutes, when another teasing ball from Horgan found Kamberi, who out jumped Gary Woods. His looping header came off the underside of the bar before it was just about gathered at the second attempt by the Hamilton keeper.
It was 2-0 after 39 minutes after a poor and rather lazy challenge on David Gray by Lenny Sowah gave referee Alan Muir no other option than to point to the spot. Mark McNulty stepped up and sent Woods the wrong way to score his first league goal for the Hibees.
Half Time- Hibernian 2-0 Hamilton
Although we were 2-0 down i was still hopeful of bringing back a point to South Lanarkshire, as i was sure Brian Rice would of had the boys all fired up for the second half. Its fair to say i was right as Accies looked a complete different side. However, the Leith side did come close to killing the tie for good just after the restart. David Gray found himself in acres of space on the right-hand side, allowing him to cross into the box. His cross was turned over by Ziggy Gordon before Mallan could tap home.
Hamilton then started to push forward, with hope of pulling one back to try find a route back into this one. Mickel Miller has been performing phenomenally under Rice, so it was no surprise to see him go close after 50 minutes when he beat three men on the edge of the box before curling an effort over the bar. At the other end, Kamberi was denied a definate goal on the 53rd minute, when he was picked out by Horgan before controlling and hitting it hard and low by Woods, but Aaron McGowan got back to clear it off the line.
It was becoming an open game at Easter Road and it was McMillan who was next to have an attempt on goal which was tipped around the post after the play was switched out to the left by Miller.
Accies should have pulled one back when a corner was met by the head of Alex Gogic who was all by himself, but his header was easily clutched by Marciano. There was a quiet spell for 15 minutes or so, with both teams struggling to keep possesion but it was still an open game as Hamilton kept pushing.
Miller was the best Accies player on the park on Saturday and everything was coming from him. The Englishman can count himself unlucky not to have been on the scoresheet after 70 minutes when his solo effort ricocheted off the post after skipping by Paul Hanlon into the box.
Stephane Omeonga came on for the Hibees and the winger had pace to burn. The winger came so close to grabbing a goal after he raced by Sowah before his low and powerful strike at goal came off the inside of the post before being cleared.
Rice has talked about showing faith in his youngsters and how the regular first team boys trust them with the ball. Both Regan Mimnaugh and Lewis Smith came on to make their second appearances for the club. These two look like being the next crop of stars to be produced by Accies.
The Paul Heckingbottom era was off to a flyer, but the home side were made to work hard in the second half especially as Accies threw everything at them.
Full Time- Hibernian 2-0 Hamilton
Marciano, Gray, McGregor, Hanlon, Stevenson, Milligan, Slivka, Mallan,Horgan(72),McNulty(79), Kamberi(85)
Subs- Bogdan, Nelom, Bigirimana, Allan(85), Mackie, Omeonga(72), Shaw(79)
Woods, McGowan, Kilgallon, Gordon, Sowah, Gogic(64),Andreu(75), Mackinnon, Miller, Oakley, McMillan(57)
Subs- Marsden, Penny, Martin, Mimnaugh(64) Smith(75), Boyd, Davies(57)
Referee- Alan Muir
Assistants- David Roome & Graham McNeillie
Fourth Official- Graham Beaton
Goals- Kamberi(17), McNulty(39)
Yellow Cards- McNulty(51), Oakley(62), McGregor(63), Mallan(67), Sowah(74)
Red Cards- 0