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Hamilton 2 Alloa Athletic 1: Neil's crisis management saves the day

ALEX Neil, the Accies player-manager, watched his side survive a dose of the jitters before reclaiming top spot in the Championship thanks to this win and Dougie Imrie's goal that saw Morton topple Dundee.

Neil brought himself back into the side after a five-month injury absence and was inspirational as his side went two goals up. However, having been booked, the manager substituted himself to avoid a red card and endured a nerve-jangling time in the dugout as Alloa pulled one back to pile on the pressure.

Neil said: "I was fine when I was on the park but it was a nightmare being off it. We heard the cheer that told us Morton had gone ahead and you could see the pressure shift on to our players.

"It was our mistakes that let Alloa back into it but we handled it in the end and the players will benefit because it's going to be like this for the next two games."

Hamilton got the early goal they wanted when Neil released Jason Scotland who had time to pick his spot behind Scott Bain with a left-footed shot from just inside the box.

Neil was an increasingly influential figure as Hamilton tried to limit Alloa's attacking opportunities.

Hamilton almost doubled their lead when Michael Doyle produced a last-ditch interception to deny Darian MacKinnon but his touch also forced a diving save from Bain.

The Alloa keeper was called upon again when Ali Crawford's 20-yard shot took a wicked deflection that forced a scrambling save.

There was increasing anxiety in the stands as the second goal took time to arrive but it duly did within soon after the restart when Scotland's cushioned header released substitute Andy Ryan whose drilled shot gave Bain no chance.

Crawford and Scotland then exchanged a series of one-twos in the Alloa box as Accies began to turn on the style but the former's shot was held by Bain.

Instead Alloa set up an anxious finale when Hamilton switched off at a short corner and Liam Caddis crossed for Ross Caldwell to head home.

Neil added: "I said last week there would be more twists and turns and there will be more to come but it's great to have our noses in front again and it's great to have things in our own hands."

Neil also revealed he will be seeking out former Hamilton team-mate Imrie to thank him for his part in yesterday's dramatic events.

"I know Dougie very well from his time here so I'll be buying him a pint the next time I see him."

With Cowdenbeath winning, Alloa are still not certain of avoiding the play-offs but manager Barry Smith refused to be despondent.

He said: "We are in a good position because we are still four points above Cowdenbeath although there is work to do to stay ahead of them.

"There wasn't much in it and a couple of mistakes cost us but I can't fault the players for effort and I'll settle for the same commitment in the last two games."

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