Hearts battled to a 2-1 win away at Hamilton Academical in an entertaining game this afternoon.
The Jambos raced into a two-goal lead thanks to Ross Callachan’s early strike and a Kyle Lafferty penalty. Rakish Bingham halved the deficit before the first half was out but the Gorgie boys saw out the game with a gritty performance.
Craig Levein made three changes from the side that drew against Aberdeen a week ago. Ashley Smith-Brown was handed a Premiership debut and Michael Smith returned from illness while there was a starting spot for Kyle Lafferty too. Aaron Hughes and Connor Randall both missed out through injury, with Don Cowie moving to the bench.
It took only three minutes for the Jambos to get their noses in front. Jamie Walker nutmegged Darian MacKinnon in the centre of the park before carrying the ball forward and spraying out wide to Michael Smith, whose ball across the middle was met by Callachan, and he tapped home from close range.
A well worked corner from Ali Crawford five minutes later found the unmarked Scott McMann at the edge of the box but his first-time volley flew well wide of Jon McLaughlin’s left-hand post.
A strong Rafal Grzelak challenge in the 17th minute saw the Pole win possession and drive down the left before playing a cross-field pass to Isma, who chested the ball down at the edge of the box and striking on target, but he could only fire straight at Gary Woods.
Accies should’ve done better moments later when a through ball found Bingham unmarked inside the box but the striker took a heavy touch which bounced off of McLaughlin and behind for a corner.
Hearts went straight up the park and created another good chance. Walker released Callachan through the middle and he carried on into the box before striking from 15-yards, but his effort was tame and straight at Woods.
The Jambos were handed a golden opportunity from the spot after 22 minutes. Isma ran across the face of the 18-yard line but was bundled over by Ioannis Skondras, and birthday boy Lafferty stepped up to slam beyond Woods and into the bottom corner.
The home side went in search of a goal and nearly captalised on a Djoum error in the 26th minute. Greg Docherty dispossessed him 20-yards out and hit a sweet strike, but couldn’t find the target.
Accies pulled one back after 33 minutes. Grzelak hesitated when faced with a high ball at the edge of his own box which allowed David Templeton to steal possession and send over a cross to the back door for the unmarked Bingham to slam home.
They went close again five minutes later. Crawford’s free kick from outside the area found Bingham inside the six-yard box but he couldn’t steer his header on target.
Hamilton were piling on the pressure by this point, with a deflected Crawford effort from inside the box spinning past McLaughlin’s right-hand post.
A stunning save from McLaughlin 13 minutes into the second half kept Hearts in front. John Souttar wiped out substitute Steven Boyd at the edge of the box and Crawford curled a wonderful set piece over the wall, only for the Hearts ‘keeper to stop it going into the top corner.
Walker went close with a free kick of his own in the 68th minute after being fouled from behind by Crawford. He curled a 20-yard effort around the wall but Woods got across his line to smother the ball at his right-hand post.
Hearts nearly wrapped the game up with ten minutes to go. Callachan floated a ball towards the back post for Lafferty to take down and his shot flew across the goal line with no takers at the other end.
Levein’s side were able to see out the remainder of the game and take three points back to Gorgie.
Hamilton Academical: Woods, Skondras, McCann, Tomas, Imrie, Docherty, Imrie, Bingham (Longridge, 84'), Crawford, Templeton (Boyd, 53'), MacKinnon, Imrie (Redmond, 75'). Subs: Jamieson, Gogic, Biabi, Donati.
Hearts: McLaughlin, M. Smith, Souttar, Berra, Grzelak, Smith-Brown, Djoum (Buaben, 46'), Callachan, Walker (Milinkovic, 90'), Lafferty, Isma (Cowie, 72'). Subs: Hamilton, Baur, Stockton, Currie.
Referee: Bobby Madden