ANDY Ryan has spent much of the season waiting in the wings while watching his team-mates embark on a thrilling title challenge.
Indeed, the young striker has yet to register a single start for the New Douglas Park side, having to be content with 18 appearances as a substitute. More experienced attackers, the likes of Jason Scotland and Mickael Antoine-Curier, have kept him on the bench, but on Saturday Ryan was happy to claim centre stage after his latest cameo performance resulted in him scoring what proved to be the winner.
Scotland, the former Trinidad and Tobago striker, scored an early opener before setting up Ryan for the clinching second just after the break.
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And, although Alloa Athletic hit back through Ross Caldwell's header, Hamilton Academical held out for a win that put them back to the top of the SPFL Championship table.
At 19 years of age, Ryan knows time is on his side and is determined to learn from his more seasoned colleagues - even if they are keeping him out of the team. "You can't argue with guys like that being in front of you because they have so much ability and experience," he said. "Jason has played at the highest level in the Premiership and Mickael has scored goals in the SPL so they are top quality players. Jason seems to know instinctively what's round about him.
"It was a brilliant cushioned header that set up my goal and I'm just delighted I managed to get the shot on target. I'm happy to get my chance and to keep learning."
Scotland made the early breakthrough when player-manager Alex Neil, making his first start for five months, set him up to score from the edge of the box. Ryan, on for the injured Darian MacKinnon, then pounced 40 seconds after half-time when Garcia Tena's chipped pass was played into his path by Scotland. News of Dougie Imrie's goal for Morton against Dundee sparked noisy celebrations from the home fans but the mood changed when a Liam Caddis cross was headed in by Caldwell. Suddenly the tension was palpable and the referee's final whistle was greeted by relief in the home ranks.
Neil, who took himself off to avoid a second yellow card, said: "I felt in control while I was on the park but being off the pitch is a nightmare.
"You could sense the pressure shift and that's when mistakes can creep in. They'll be better for this because they'll have to handle the pressure in the last two games."