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Hamilton are no write-offs for the drop, insists Neil

IT took only one game of the new SPFL Premiership season for Alex Neil's Hamilton team to be written off by one presumptuous scribe as relegation certainties.

Alex Neil was angered by a reporter who wrote off his Hamilton team after one game but was in happier mood yesterday at New Douglas Park following their midweek win at St Mirren. Picture: SNS
Alex Neil was angered by a reporter who wrote off his Hamilton team after one game but was in happier mood yesterday at New Douglas Park following their midweek win at St Mirren. Picture: SNS

A claim that the affronted Accies player/manager dismissed yesterday as "nonsense".

The top flight's newcomers, who were promoted after a dramatic play-off win over Hibernian, lost 2-0 at home to Inverness on the opening day of the season. That was enough, it seems, for one media onlooker to draw the gloomiest of conclusions about their future in the top flight.

A prediction that was made to look foolish within only four days when Accies bounced back with a 2-0 win at St Mirren on Wednesday.

Ahead of the visit of St Johnstone to New Douglas Park today, Neil stressed there is a long way to go before any meaningful assessments of his team can be made. He said: "I didn't just sense that people wrote us off after our first game, I read it. One journalist was quoted as saying, 'That is Hamilton down.'

"That was after we'd played one game. It is just a nonsense really. There is a long, long way to go. That is not to say we won't be down there fighting for our lives. We might be, but we might not be."

Neil took great satisfaction from the result in Paisley on Wednesday and the style with which his players achieved it. "Beating St Mirren was certainly pleasing. Earlier, in the game against Inverness, we were outplayed in the first half and gifted them two sloppy goals.

"In the second half, however, I thought we played well, yet we didn't get any plaudits for that whatsoever.We read a bit more into it than that and we improved again against St Mirren. We showed what we can do, and there is more to come."

Neil revealed his admiration for Scottish Cup winners St Johnstone as he prepared his side for what he hopes will be their first home league win of the season. He said: "Your home form is vital if you are a going to have a good season.

"I've had St Johnstone watched twice and we will be prepared for them. They have been a solid team in the top flight for a number of years now. We played them here in the cup last season and they deserved to beat us that day, so we know it is going to be a difficult task."

Saints go into the game with points of their own to prove after their 3-0 loss to Celtic in midweek. The game's biggest talking point was the penalty given for Dave Mackay's alleged push on Derk Boerrigter, which was made more evident to ref John Beaton by the Celtic sub's flamboyant collapse to the McDiarmid Park turf, earning the Saints captain a red card.

The turning point in the game, however, was a mistake by St Johnstone defender Steven Anderson that allowed Kris Commons to set up Anthony Stokes for the opening goal.

After a decade at the heart of the Perth club's back line, Anderson feels life is getting harder for all defenders but he offered no excuses for his error.

He said: "I dwelt on the ball too much for the first goal, so it was really disappointing. It was a good tackle from Commons but I should have dealt with it much quicker and I have to put my hands up for that.

"It turned into a really disappointing night for us with our skipper getting sent off and us losing three goals. I've seen the penalty incident again and I'd like to think the red card will get rescinded. Boerrigter dived a couple of steps after the challenge.

"Being a defender is definitely getting harder because you know any kind of contact in the box means the striker will go down.

"They've changed the offside rule so that it is even more geared towards the forward players. If I make a mess of a clearance and the guy is offside, he's through on goal now.

"So being a defender gets more difficult all the time. You're able to do less and less. Defending is being taken out of the game.

"The one thing in our favour is the video evidence. The authorities can change their minds on red cards and even punish people if they've dived. If people know they'll be punished it might be a small deterrent."

One striker Anderson approves of without reservations is his former Saints colleague Jason Scotland, who will be in the Hamilton squad today.

He said: "Jason was a great player when he was with us and he'll still be class. He banged in the goals, so he'll be a threat we have to watch.

"People look at him and think he's heavy but that's just his natural build. He's solid and ripped, so he is a tough guy to play against.

"He might look lazy at times but he's not. Jason doesn't press the ball but works hard to get into good areas. He's just a natural goalscorer and has good technical ability. It will be good to see him again but hopefully we'll be able to shut him out."

Anderson said he'll be targeting a win today but conceded: "Hamilton bounced back really well the other night against St Mirren. That shows the kind of character they have. We need to win at places like Hamilton if we're to have another good season.

Boss Tommy Wright will welcome back midfielder Scott Brown and he could be tempted to blood on-loan Yeovil striker Adam Morgan.

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