The contest was generally unremarkable because neither side posed a credible threat on goal, but the home team were eventually dominant. Hamilton began to aspire to a goalless draw as they became more defensive, and that approach must have seemed advisable as St Mirren kept slinging crosses into the penalty area.
Minds were turning to extra time, but there was still room for a conclusion to be reached. The St Mirren players must have known that the game had entered its final moments, because their efforts became acute. When a corner was forced, it still took a momentary lapse by Kevin Cuthbert, the Hamilton goalkeeper, for St Mirren to score. He missed Graham Carey's cross, and Lee Mair headed the ball into the net to send St Mirren into the Scottish Communities League Cup quarter-finals.
"We told them to serve the ball into the box a little bit earlier," said Danny Lennon, the St Mirren manager. "It was like chopping down an old oak tree, and finally with the last swing, it collapsed. Hamilton were very well organised, I can't give them enough credit."
Mistakes had been the distinguishing feature. Both teams were capable of measured build-up play, but the home side were occasionally negligent during the opening half. They presented the ball to Hamilton in dangerous areas, and only uncertain finishing prevented the first division side from taking the lead. Frustration was evident with both managers.
Lennon must have cringed as players lost the ball near their own penalty area. The intention is for his team to rely a composed passing game, but there is little worth in the idealism when play is generally ponderous. Concentration faltered, but Hamilton were not able to take advantage.
There was a sprightliness to the visitors, but it too readily turned to rashness. Louis Longridge pulled his shot across the face of the goal when clean through, then Jon Routledge steered his effort at Craig Samson, the St Mirren goalkeeper, from a good position
The game was played at a slow pace, and that seemed to discourage any urgency. As a result, opportunities tended to be half-hearted. Even if the efforts were inadvertent, they could still be dangerous, and Cuthbert had to backtrack smartly to tip the ball over after Dougie Imrie's cross took a heavy deflection.
Tension was scarce, not least because the crowd was sparse and incidents barely generated any exclamation. That subdued tone was an influence on the game as much as a consequence of it. St Mirren were at least able to disrupt the monotony, and Lewis Guy was taken off after 35 minutes. It was a tactical change, because there was little space for Guy to run into, and his replacement, Steven Thompson, immediately linked up with his fellow striker Sam Parkin. A one-two ended with Thompson awkwardly shooting over.
St Mirren were not prepared to accept the nature of the contest. A further change was made at half-time, with David van Zanten coming on to allow the home side to switch to a back four. The change in shape was no mere formality, since it provided greater stability and a platform for St Mirren to build upon.
Command was attained through sheer perseverance. St Mirren would consider themselves the better- equipped team, but that had not been evident. Pride must have been stung, since they were immediately more for-midable. Subtlety did not survive the alterations, and crosses were regularly sent into the penalty area towards Parkin or Thompson.
Hamilton were capable of defending the onslaught, but openings were occasionally forced. Carey almost scored from a free-kick, then Cuthbert had to fling himself to the left to save Thompson's header. Hamilton had become increasingly conservative, with the sole intention being to protect their own goal.
That instinct of self-preservation was flawed, since there was never any attempt to ease the pressure. It was typical, for instance, that Canning had to scramble the ball clear during one attack, since there were so many bodies inside Hamilton's penalty area. The visitors must have felt the doggedness would be rewarded, but they were thwarted in the end.
"We were miles better in the first-half," said Billy Reid, the Hamilton manager. "They changed it and bombarded us. We dealt with it, until the last kick of the ball. But I can't be negative about my team."
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