Hearts went down 3-2 to Hamilton Accies in a dramatic match at New Douglas Park.
Robbie Neilson’s side looked to be cruising after Billy King and Callum Paterson strikes had cancelled out Gramonz Kurtaj’s opener, but late goals from Ali Crawford and Jesus Garcia Tena following a straight red for Paterson, meant that all three points remained in Hamilton.
The Jambos lined up with eight changes from midweek, following the grueling Scottish League Cup win in Forfar; in came Neil Alexander, Callum Paterson, Alim Ozturk, Jamie Walker, Prince Buaben, Juwon Oshaniwa and Juanma.
Hearts passed well in the opening stages but it was the hosts who had the first chance after three minutes. Alexander’s clearance was headed by Gomis straight into the path of Ali Crawford, who darted forward before letting fly from 25-yards but the Jambos no. 1 leapt to tip the ball over the bar.
Crawford then tried his luck from distance again, this time firing well wide of the target.
The men in maroon saw plenty of possession but didn’t trouble the Accies goal. That was until the 25th minute when Walker slipped through Sow, and was promptly wiped out by Kurankins for his troubles, but the big Swede overran the ball and Michael McGovern came rushing out to smother. The Accies left-back was then booked for his cynical foul on the Jambos winger.
Back on after treatment and playing with fire in his belly, Walker got a sniff of goal after cutting out a loose Accies pass. He bombed forward and drilled low from 20-yards, but McGovern got down to make the save.
Accies’ Crawford completed a hat-trick of long range shots not long after, hitting a looping shot from 25-yards out but Alexander was alert enough to palm the ball to safety.
With just over half an hour gone Hearts had their best chance of the match. Billy King’s free-kick from the right was nodded back across goal by Paterson and although Sow got a flick with his head, he couldn’t steer the ball on target from inside the six-yard box.
Minutes later the best opportunity of the game was presented to Accies. Crawford’s through ball split the defence and sent Gramonz Kurtaj clean through, but as he ran in on goal, and primed to pull the trigger, he clipped his own heels and tasted the turf, with the ball running behind and out of play.
Hearts were caught on the break with three minutes to go until half-time when Crawford was played through, but even though he was forced wide he managed to play it back in to the middle only to see Grant Gillespie take a fresh air swipe and Darian MacKinnon blast over from 10-yards.
That warning wasn’t heeded and Accies took the lead a minute later. A long ball forward was missed by Ozturk and Kurtaj atoned for his earlier miss by nipping in front of the oncoming Alexander to knock the ball into the empty net.
The second-half started with Hearts immediately awarded a free-kick on the edge of the Accies box. Ozturk stepped up and curled his effort a good five yards over the bar.
On 53 minutes Hearts got themselves back on level terms. Sow tore down the left and into the box before cutting inside for King, who took three touches away from two Accies players before stabbing the ball high beyond McGovern and into the roof of the net.
Over the next 15 minutes chances were few and far between. Accies came back into the match and neither side ventured to close to the other’s box.
That changed in the 71st minute with a moment of real Jambo magic. The men in maroon broke forward with Juanma on the left, and he picked out Paterson and the back door who volleyed sweetly first-time beyond McGovern.
Drama then broke out as referee Willie Collum gave Paterson a straight red for a challenge on Imrie. A flurry of bookings then occurred as the game threatened to boil over.
Out of nowhere, Accies equalised through a stunning Crawford strike. The midfielder collected the ball and from 25-yards out and at angle slammed an unstoppable effort into the opposite corner of the net.
Disaster struck with three minutes remaining when Accies regained the lead. Hearts failed to clear their lines at a corner and Tena, at the second attempt, blasted the ball through a clutch of bodies and into the net.
That was all she wrote and the Jambos head into the international break with an opportunity to recharge the batteries before heading up to Inverness on 11th September.
Hamilton: McGovern, Gordon, Kurakins, Gillespie, Imrie (Nade, 80'), Crawford, Kurtaj, Morris (Longridge, 89'), Mackinnon, Tena, Tagliapietra. Subs: Martin, Redmond, Watson, Docherty, Boyd.
Hearts: Alexander, Paterson, Ozturk, Rossi, Oshaniwa, Gomis, Buaben (Reilly, 88'), King (Nicholson, 80'), Walker, Sow (McGhee, 80'), Juanma. Subs: Hamilton, McHatie, McKirdy, Oliver.
Ref: Willie Collum
Top man: Jamie Walker