MIHAI POPESCU had to wait a long time for his first Hamilton goal but once it finally arrived, it was delivered in style. 

The Romanian centre-half, who signed for Accies on loan from Hearts earlier this season, is usually more focused on keeping the ball out of the net but produced a fine scissor kick to earn his side a share of the spoils in Saturday’s 2-2 draw at home to Partick Thistle. 

Scott Tiffoney had given the visitors the lead with the final kick of the first half as he rifled in a free-kick from the edge of the Hamilton box before Andy Ryan levelled via the penalty spot shortly after the interval. 

Zak Rudden restored Thistle’s lead when he stabbed home Brian Graham’s cushioned header but within minutes, the most unlikely of heroes stepped up to equalise with an acrobatic finish. Ryan burst into the box and beat his man before chipping the ball back towards the penalty spot, where Popescu was waiting as he leapt into the air and steered the ball home with his leg at head-height, registering his first goal for Accies. 

“It was a good finish,” the 28-year-old said. “Finally, I get a goal. 

“I’ve had a lot of chances cleared off the line so I’m happy to score here. I don’t know how many chances I’ve had, but I’m happy to score at last and to help my team to get a point.  

“That was probably the most difficult chance I’ve had. I was there, I got the chance, and I was able to take it.  

“It was a fair result. Both teams had chances, we played well and we deserved a point. We created a lot but didn’t take enough chances.” 

The result leaves Hamilton in sixth place, eight points behind Thistle in fifth and having played an additional two games, but Popescu firmly believes he and his team-mates are capable of battling it out for promotion come the end of the season. 

The chasm between the two halves of the table would require a momentous drop-off from a top-five team and a side towards the bottom of the league but the centre-half is adamant that Accies have what it takes to be in with a shout of a place in the Premiership by the time the play-offs roll around in May. 

“Hopefully [we’re] in the top four and we will see who we get in the play-off,” Popescu said of his ambitions for the season. “We have a lot of work to do, there are many games ahead, so we need to be ready, to be prepared for what comes next.  

“We have to look up the league, to look forward. We need to keep winning games, taking points and why not go up out of the Championship.”