A real ding-dong encounter between Hamilton and Falkirk ended in a 4-2 win for Accies at the SuperSeal Stadium in the Scottish Youth Cup.
A brace from Ross Cunningham added to strikes from Marc Kelly and Ryan Tierney for Hamilton, whilst Falkirk twice got themselves back on level terms through Kevin O’Hara and Reis Peggie.
Hamilton came into the match on the back of a confidence-boosting 3-0 home win against Dundee United in the Development League, with memories of their terrific 4-2 win over Queen’s Park in Round two still fresh in the mind.
For Falkirk, they came into the game on the back of two games without a win. A 1-0 home defeat to Motherwell was followed up by a 1-1 draw in Dundee – leaving the Bairns looking to the Youth Cup to springboard league success.
The game had hardly settled before Hamilton stormed into an early advantage. Leon McCann was showing great energy down the left early on, and after reaching the by-line within minutes of kick-off, his low cross saw an initial effort parried by Robbie Mutch, before Marc Kelly turned in the rebound.
Hamilton looked buoyed by their early start, and were winning the aerial duels impressively in the final third through Kelly and the impressive Ryan Tierney.
Falkirk stuck to their principles however, and after an early wave of pressure from Accies, the Bairns started to play it out from the back. Falkirk used their passing game to good effect as the half wore on, as they grew in confidence and started using the flanks.
Marky Munro and Mark Stow were combining well down the left, with Stow in particular looking like he could create something.
A few crosses into the penalty area troubled Hamilton as Falkirk turned the screw. Firstly, a corner was controlled by Mark Finlayson, who hooked over the bar on with an over-head effort. Then, moments later, a deep cross to the far post from Reis Peggie found Conor Langton waiting, but his header was sent over.
A goal was coming with Falkirk in control of the ball, and it was no surprise when they equalised through Kevin O’Hara. The Bairns won an aerial duel in the midfield, with Jason Jarvis flicking a ball through for O’Hara to run onto. He strode forward with confidence to bury a low effort past the helpless Alex Marshall.
Credit must go to Hamilton for how they responded to the Falkirk goal. After surviving an initial flurry of counter-attacks, Accies grabbed control of the midfield and started winning the 50-50s.
With 10 minutes to go until the end of the half, Hamilton’s pressure started with a patient move around the Falkirk box, with Ross Cunningham firing wide from outside the area.
This led to a late siege of pressure in the first 45 from the hosts, as a Cunningham effort was blocked in the box, before Tierney’s clever glancing header was saved spectacularly from Mutch.
Accies had the ball in the net twice in the final five minutes of the half, both being put in by Lewis Ferguson. Firstly, the youngster lashed home a rebound but was adjudged to have fouled Mutch, before beating the Falkirk goalkeeper in an aerial duel and once again being penalised for it.