Goals in each half from Connor Smith and Callum Douglas saw Hamilton Accies edge a hard fought Scottish Cup semi final against Blantyre BC Yellow at a windswept Robertson Park. In a game of very few chances Accies took theirs when it mattered and were able to keep a determined Blantyre out at the other end. Blantyre battled manfully throughout the game but it is Accies that will take their place in May’s final in Airdrie.
A real semi final atmosphere was in place as Hamilton kicked off, the natural sense of nervous anticipation augmented by a noisy Blantyre travelling support who had brought a drum, an air horn and some smoke bombs with them. It was all good natured backing for their side and well captured by the YFS cameraman and videographer who were in attendance for this eagerly awaited contest between two free scoring local sides. The only worry for those in attendance at Thorniewood United’s Robertson Park was that the strong swirling wind might limit each team’s ability to play the positive attacking football for which they have been renowned this season.
The opening exchanges were very cagey as the teams struggled to deal with the wind and also a pitch that was slightly bobbly, meaning possession was being given away relatively cheaply. In the seventh minute Accies Dean Burton had a fairly muted claim for a penalty when challenged by Blantyre goalkeeper Mark Cunningham; only a corner was given however which was the correct decision. Burton had given early notice of his pace and strength breaking down the left though. Blantyre were aware of this threat and were once again being led excellently at the back by Ryan McGuinness who seemed to be getting in the way of everything Hamilton could throw at him.
Throughout this season the main men for Blantyre have been Michael McGinty and Lee Brown but they were being kept quiet in the early part of the game. That was until the sixteenth minute when Blantyre produced a superb piece of counter attacking football to almost take the lead. A corner from Accies on the right was cleared and taken in his stride by McGinty to create a crucial yard of space. Brown had already read his teammates intentions, darting forward purposefully. McGinty flighted a superb ball over the head of the last Accies defender which it looked like Brown would be able to get on the end of. Unfortunately for Brown and his team however Jordan Pettigrew in the Accies goal was equally sharp, rushing out to clear the danger. If Accies had been marginally on top in the opening stages this gave them a reminder of exactly what Blantyre were capable of, particularly if McGinty was able to get on the ball in midfield.
Blantyre seemed to grow in confidence following this action, forcing a free kick on the right that McGinty took. This was clutched easily by Pettigrew who then produced an outstanding save in the twentieth minute to tip over a long range Brown effort. The subsequent corner was cleared and it was a feature of the game that each side was unable to capitalise on a number of set piece opportunities when they were presented with them. Hamilton had a couple of efforts from long range, most notably after thirty minutes when a twenty five yard effort from David Thomson brought a flying save from Cunningham.
Accies had more success in the thirty third minute when they took the lead with a goal almost from nowhere. A high ball forward seemed to catch in the wind and was gratefully seized upon by Connor Smith who brought it down before taking it towards the byeline on the left. From there he produced an emphatic finish from a tight angle that flew past Cunningham to put his team one goal up. A very well taken goal that looked to be crucial in a match of very few chances and it gave Accies a lead that they held until the half time interval.