Hamilton 0-1 Rangers - Nacho To The Rescue
By Grandmaster Suck
Updated Saturday, 16th January 2010
A late Nacho Novo strike secured a crucial 1-0 win for Rangers over Hamilton Accies this afternoon to ensure that the Light Blues maintain their seven-point advantage in the title race.
Hamilton Accies 0 Rangers 1 (Novo 78)
A Rangers team ravaged by injury and suspension saw Manager Walter Smith make three changes from last Sunday with Maurice Edu, Kevin Thomson and Nacho Novo replacing the suspended Lee McCulloch and Kenny Miller and the injured Kris Boyd. Incredibly the Ibrox men listed only six substitutes.
Accies Boss Billy Reid meanwhile brought in new signing David Van Zanten in place of Trent McClenahan and David Elebert for Stuart Elliott. .
It was the home side who made the early running - and Marco Paixao should perhaps have done better in fifteen minutes than sky the ball wide from a Marc Antoine-Curier pass after Sasa Papac's slip had created the opening..
Two minutes later Simon Mensing's shot was blocked from a Jamie McArthur cutback.
Hamilton sliced open the visitors' defence in 28 minutes when Mikael Antoine-Curier's flick found Marco Paixao whose cross was sliced wide by Mensing.
Rangers had scarcely created an opening worthy of the name - not until the 42nd minute when Kyle Lafferty's turn and shot from the edge of the box was held by home goalkeeper Tomas Cerny.
A goalless half-time scoreline was about as much as a lifeless Ibrox side were entitled to - but there was a marginal improvement after the restart.
Steven Whittaker was inches away with a snap-shot from a Lafferty lay-off in fifty minutes.
Three minutes later Lafferty's header from a Steve Davis cross was held by Cerny.
There remained however a lack of spark and inspiration about Rangers - Accies remained the more likely, underlined in 69 minutes when Antoine-Curier played a one-two with Paixao before skimming the side-netting with a low drive.
Sixty seconds later John Fleck replaced Kirk Broadfoot.
Paixao almost brought the house down in 73 minutes when his overhead kick from the edge of the area flashed just wide.
The breakthrough when it arrived five minutes later however came at the other end - Novo netting from a tight angle after John Fleck's shot following a Papac run was parried by Cerny.
It was sore on Accies - but Rangers were now in the ascendancy, and Papac almost made the points safe in 83 minutes when his solo run took him clean through only for Cerny to block his effort.
Five minutes later following a Novo break Davis' low twenty-yard shot was inches wide, then in the dying seconds Whittaker was denied by Cerny when he cut in from the right only for his drive to be blocked.
Rangers had a vital three points - and afterwards a relieved Walter Smith was honest enough to admit:
"We didn't play well at all in the first-half. It took us time to get started. Hamilton were the better side for much of the game. We imposed ourselves better in the second-half. It was awkward with both Maurice Edu and Kevin Thomson having been out so much recently. We're down to the bare minimum - I'm delighted to win."
HAMILTON ACCIES Cerny; Canning, McLaughlin (Crawford 78), Elebert; Van Zanten (McClenahan 57), McArthur, Neil, Hastings; Mensing, Antoine-Curier, M. Paixao
UNUSED SUBS Murdoch, Elliott, F. Paixao, Kirkpatrick, Sullivan
RANGERS McGregor; Broadfoot (Fleck 70), Weir, Wilson, Papac; Davis, Edu, Thomson, Whittaker; Lafferty, Novo
UNUSED SUBS Alexander, Smith, Loy, Little, Ness,
REFEREE Mike Tumilty