AFTER four minutes against Celtic at the Fountain of Youth Stadium on Saturday afternoon, Accies fans will have feared the worst. The champions came flying out of the traps in South Lanarkshire and it wasn't long until James Forrest opened the scoring. Hamilton dug deep, though, and while they failed to cause Fraser Forster too much difficulty in the match, the home side can be fairly happy with the manner in which they finished the game.

Hamilton's standout player on the day was 19-year-old midfielder Lewis Smith who has wasted no time whatsoever in ensuring he is one of the first names on Brian Rice's team-sheet. The winger made his debut last season in Hamilton's 3-0 defeat to Aberdeen in October and made three subsequent cameos off the bench, racking up a total of 69 minutes played across the course of the season.

This year, however, is has been a different story. Smith was subbed on during Accies' 3-0 defeat to Ross County on the opening day of the season and has started every game since. On his debut the following week against Kilmarnock, Smith got on the scoresheet and assisted his team's other goal in a 2-0 win over Angelo Alessio's side.


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A direct, pacy player with bags of ability, Smith looks to be the next hot prospect to be churned out of the production line at the Fountain of Youth Stadium, following in the footsteps of James McCarthy, James McCarthur, Mikey Devlin, Ali Crawford, Eamonn Brophy, Greg Docherty, Paul Hartley et al.

Smith was probably the home side's best player last Saturday and he did not look to be fazed up against the champions. At least, if he did, he hid it well. Smith attempted no fewer than 10 dribbles against Neil Lennon's side, with six of them successful. Not bad at all for a 19-year-old starting the fourth professional game of his career.

In the five matches that Smith has taken part in so far this season - which is a small sample size, admittedly - the youngster has attempted 43 dribbles: only St Johnstone winger Matty Kennedy (45) has more to his name in the entire Scottish top flight.

Smith has a dribbling success rate of 55.8% in the Premiership so far this season, which is better than it sounds. James Forrest, one of the league's best dribblers, is successful 63.6% of the time so far this season. Ryan Christie's dribbles are only successful 41.7% of the time. Jordan Jones' runs this campaign are unsuccessful 50% of the time.

It is, of course, still very early days for Smith but the precocious winger looks to be a very exciting talent indeed. The 19-year-old's early-season form was rewarded with a call up - and a debut - for Scot Gemmill's under-21s side against San Marino at the start of the month.

Hamilton have a proud history of developing youngsters and giving them a chance in the first team at a relatively young age and Smith looks set to be the latest product of this nurturing ethos that Accies have fine-tuned brilliantly. If he can maintain his blistering start for Rice's side throughout the season, then the home fans at the Fountain of Youth Stadium are in for a treat.