Hamilton Academicals lost at home to Dundee United 3-2 last night at a wintery-looking New Douglas Park in an exciting and unpredictable match, a result that allowed United to leapfrog both them and Inverness into third place in the Scottish Premiership table, as they chase a potential European spot at the end of the season. On a blustery night, Hamilton were looked after by interim player-coach Martin Canning in their first game after their erstwhile boss, Alex Neil, moved south last week to pick up the reins at English Championship promotion seekers, Norwich City, following on from the resignation of Neil Adams.

Yet, you can take the man out of Scotland, but you can’t take Scotland out of the man, as Neil was seen to be keenly observing the action north of the border from his new base in East Anglia. From the segregated top bar of the city centre public house, The Murderers, he and a friend watched on as his former employees attempted to rescue a match that looked to be getting away from them far too easily at 2-0 behind early in the second-half.

United had gone in front on 38 minutes through Stuart Armstrong’s marvellous strike and sprinted out of the blocks in the second period to extend their lead less than a minute in, when Armstrong slotted in Gary Mackay-Steven to break the offside trap and neatly slot the ball past Michael McGovern in the Hamilton goal. The home side found some resolve to reduce the deficit on 57 minutes from a free-kick thanks to their Spanish centre-back, when Jesus Garcia Tena dipped a sweetly timed left-footed shot over the wall and into the net. Their comeback seemed complete as they drew level at 2-2 when Ali Crawford scored with twenty minutes still to play. Sadly for both their fans and you suspect Neil, they could not go on to clinch all three points though as United rallied once more and it was they who broke the Accies’ hearts to score the winner seven minutes later. Sean Dillon was left unmarked at a corner and didn’t waste the opportunity to head the ball home and edge a 3-2 thriller the Dundee side’s way. It was a rather tame ending to an unbeaten home streak that had lasted ten games prior to United’s arrival.

Dundee United’s reward was to move into third place in the league, replacing Inverness Caledonian Thistle who had beaten Kilmarnock away over the weekend. Hamilton dropped to fifth as they are in danger of losing touch with the teams above them.

As for Neil, his new start at the Canaries seems to have begun well after a confidence boosting victory away at leaders Bournemouth at the weekend. He seemed to be in good spirits last night, signing an autograph for the son of the pub’s landlord as a few locals wished him and his team well for the rest of the season. For his old club one wonders if his departure will cause a prolonged dip in form or whether they can regroup and continue an assault on the leading places in the league. 
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