Thursday evening marked the return of the new season, with our first of four pre-season friendlies, which was a trip to Starks Park to play League One side, Raith Rovers. John McGlynn’s men finished a respectable third in League One last season, before going on to beat Forfar in the play-off semi-final, but a disappointing 3-0 defeat in the first leg of the final against Queen Of The South meant they had a huge deficit to overturn when they travelled to Palmerston a couple days later and unfortunately for them, they couldn’t turn it around as the second leg finished goalless.
The last time Accies played Raith was back in 2015 in a League Cup tie where The Rovers were victorious with a 2-1 win. Iain Davidson opened the scoring after three minutes, rifling home an effort from inside the box. The Premiership side equalised from a Christian Nade header but Kyle Benedictus headed home a cross ten minutes from time to send Rovers into the last 16.
Hamilton have had a very busy summer so far. With Brian Rice now able to make his own side there has been plenty of signings and a few who have moved on. Accies fans are not used to all the business being done early as we normally tend to wait until the end of the window and see who we can pick up, so fair play to Brian for having his targets and succeeding to get them in. I am sure most if not all Accies fans will agree it has been a breath of fresh air since he took over in February and I’m excited to see how we play under him for a whole season. Ill briefly go over our signings and their playing profiles.
1)- Brian Easton. The return of “Sheena” brought smiles to the faces of Accies fans, but I have a feeling this deal was complete well before the window opened. The left-back started his career at Accies before making a move to English side Burnley. He went on to make 33 appearances for the English side. A very talented defender who has absolutely no luck with injuries over the years. He just returned to action in February for St Johnstone reserves after being out for two years! If we can keep Brian fit his experience will be key, both on and off the park for the young ones, which is what Brian Rice wants. It is currently looking like he will be playing in a centre-back role as we now have two left-backs, but he did play there earlier in his career.
2) Blair Alston- Another player we managed to pick up from St Johnstone was Blair Alston. A fantastic signing and personally my favourite. I definitely thought Alston was very underrated at The Saints and by far not the worst midfielder they had last season, and he can count himself unlucky not to have played more. I will not complain at all as Accies have been crying out for a creative midfielder for a long time. Alston made over 150 appearances for Falkirk and was coached by Brian Rice, so he clearly gets on well with Blair and knows the qualities he can bring to Hamilton. After watching him last night, he likes to pick up the ball and move it around and try create stuff. He played well.
3) Markus Fjortoft- Accies signed the son of Norwegian legend Jan Age Fjortoft. The 25 year old started his career in the lower end of the Norweigan leagues before moving to America to do a footballing scholarship. Hamilton signed the Centre-back from New Zealand side Southern United after his contract ran out. Its hard to state a lot about Markus but from looking at him he is a huge guy who will be in there for every header and tackle and wont hide from anything, which is something Accies haven’t had since the days of Lucas Tagliapietra.
4) Ciaran McKenna- Ciaran signed from Falkirk after they were relegated to League One last season. The young defender was seemingly liked by The Bairns fans and they think they he will do well at Accies. He scored two goals in his 17 games last season so he could be a threat from set-pieces. After watching him on Thursday he looked fantastic on the ball and very comfortable sweeping the ball about the park. However, he made a mistake which led to one of the goals and he looked very uncomfortable after that and it knocked his confidence, but I’m sure he will improve and get more confident as the weeks go on. It was his debut remember.
5) Owain Fon-Williams- With Gary Woods departing it meant that Accies needed a new number one and I think Owain Fon-Williams is a good pick up. He is well experienced and knows the Scottish game well and can hopefully help develop Ryan Fulton, who is also a talented keeper. I personally think he made far to many mistakes last season when given the chance to play. The Welshman is here to prove he is good enough to play for his country and believes it will give him a better chance of getting a call up for the Wales national side. I remember Fon-Williams when he played for Inverness and he made many good saves against us. On Thursday he made a few good saves and was very sharp off his line for crosses and out his box to clear any potential danger which is something we haven’t seen with Woods and Fulton.
6) Will Collar- The Gaffer announced that we had signed Will Collar in one of his recent interviews. Brian has numerous contacts in the game of football and has obviously been told about Will. We all know that if Hamilton don’t play he will be somewhere watching football and he said in his interview that he has been watching Will closely in his travels during the year. The 22 year old has been at Brighton since he was 10. He made just the one first team appearance which came against Southampton last year but played for the Brighton U23’s most weeks in the Premier League 2. Again, its hard to know what to expect from Will as I cant seem to find many highlights on him so ill trust The Gaffer on this one.
7) Johnny Hunt – Our most recent signing was Johnny Hunt from Stevenage, where he made 28 appearances last season. The left-back has been playing consistently in League 1 and 2 in England and looks like an excellent addition. he was one of the players I was most impressed with on Thursday. I didn’t know what to expect but he was excellent. He picked out a perfect long ball nearly every time and controlled the defence well. He did play left centre-back which isn’t his preferred role and I expect to see him giving Scott McMann good competition for the left-back position. He also looked like a leader, screaming out instructions constantly at other players which was good to see considering its the first time he’s wore an Accies shirt.
The club also extended the contracts of Steve Davies, Ronan Hughes, Ross Cunningham, Shaun Want and Mickel Miller, who was linked with a couple of English sides.
The game got underway in Kirkcaldy with Accies playing in their beautiful new away kit which was unveiled yesterday afternoon. The visitors started brightly as they constantly pressed the Raith defence. The first chance for the top-flight club came on the eighth minute when some brilliant footwork by Blair Alston saw him leave Regan Hendry for dead before a dangerous cross was put over his own bar Fernandy Mendy. Accies continued to play well and next it was Scott McMann who went close as his charging run down the line ended up with his own cross hitting the top of the bar.
The League One side finally started to find their rhythm and grow much more into the game as it went on. They very nearly opened the scoring on the 20th minute when some ping-pong football around the Accies box ended up falling at the feet of Hendry who’s powerful volley went inches wide of Fon-Williams post, with the Welshman well beaten.
Straight after Rovers went close, Accies came even closer to breaking the deadlock. A beautiful long ball forward from Johnny Hunt found Alston out wide on the wing. The midfielder picked up the ball and delivered another fantastic ball into the box which was met by the head of George Oakley, but the Englishman’s header came crashing back off the bar. It should have been 1-0 to the Premiership side.
This was turning into a good game as now the home side attacked again. They were awarded a penalty on the 24th minute when Hendry was seemingly brought down by Fon-Williams. The 21 year-old stepped and sent the Accies keeper the wrong way. 1-0 Raith.
Eight minutes later it was 2-0. Former Accies defender Kieran MacDonald beat his man on the left before a low-driven cross beat everyone apart from Kieran Bowie, who took a touch and hammered the ball home from close range. It was all Raith now as Accies had fell out of this one very badly. Joao Victoria, (who Accies fans might remember against Airdrie last year, where he tore us to shreds in the Betfred Cup) was next to have an effort at goal. The Portuguese striker burst into the box before his powerful effort was beaten away by Fon-Williams at his near post. It was 3-0 on the 42nd minute when a long-ranged effort by Bowie took a huge deflection off of Hunt which wrong-footed the Accies keeper and ended up in the back of the net.
I know its on a pre-season friendly but I will admit I was a bit concerned at this point as the team was made up of about 60-70% of first team players.
Half Time- Raith Rovers 3-0 Hamilton
Accies to my surprise didn’t change anything at half-time.
The second half got into proceedings and once again Accies were fast out the traps and pulled one goal back just 10 minutes into the second half. Oakley burst into the box before Cooley slotting the ball under McGurn. Minutes later the away side came close again when a good cross from Aaron McGowan found Alston, who flicked his effort just wide of the right-hand post. It was 3-2 on the 60th minute as the visitors tried to claw back the three goal deficit. Another fabulous cross by McGowan was met this time by young Ronan Hughes who powered a header into the top corner. Comeback on?.
Accies continued to push in search of the equaliser and had the hosts were now camped in their own box. Mickel Miller and both Lewis Smith came on and made an impact and they linked up well to nearly level the game. The young Accies midfielder slid the ball into Miller, who beat a few men and was only denied by a great stop from McGurn.
After being slightly concerned at the interval a much better second half performance brought some relief but we couldn’t find an equaliser. In his interview after the game, Manager Brian Rice stated to Accies TV that he thought it was a game Accies definitely needed, and as you can tell there was some rustiness in the first half. He was pleased with the second half however.
Full Time- Raith 3-2 Hamilton.
Our next friendly will be on Saturday where we make the short journey to Cliftonhill to take on League Two side, Albion Rovers.
McGurn, MacDonald, Davidson, Mendy, Hendry, Allan, Matthews, Victoria, Spencer, McKay, Bowie
Subs- Munro, Miller, Benedictus, Anderson, Watson, Trialist A
Fon-Williams, McGowan, McMann, McKenna, Hunt, Oakley, Alston, Cunningham, Hughes, Mimnaugh, Hughes, Hamilton
Subs- Connelly, Miller, Gogic, Want, Easton, Stranger, Smith, Breen, McCann, Ogkmpoe
Referee- Gavin Duncan
Assistants- Jordan Stokes & Barry Dickson
Goals- Raith- Hendry(24), Bowie(35), (Hunt OG 42),
Hamilton- Oakley(55), Hughes(59)
Attendance- 823( 65 Away)
Yellow Cards- 0
Red Cards- 0