SCOTTISH football bible Willie Duncan (@Willie_Duncan) shares his expert opinion on Sunday’s promotion/relegation play-off between Hamilton and Dundee United.
Hamilton v Dundee United | Sunday 15:00 | BT Sport
The first leg between Dundee United and Hamilton on Thursday night had everything – drama, excitement, controversy…well, almost everything.
The only thing that the game lacked, somewhat annoyingly, was goals and, following that tense, goalless draw at Tannadice, the stage is set for a superb shoot-out at New Douglas Park on Sunday.
If this was a boxing match, it would be evident enough that there had been nothing even close to a knockout blow delivered on Thursday, but most judges would acknowledge that it is Accies who are ahead on points – and home comforts could come to the rescue of the men from Lanarkshire as they scrap for survival.
Hamilton held on
Martin Canning’s men were struggling to stay on their feet towards the end of the tie at Tannadice, with Massimo Donati and Dougie Imrie – two of the Premiership side’s key men – reduced to the role of passengers in the final stages.
The fact, though, that both players played on, with Canning having already deployed his three substitutes, was testament to the spirit of a side that expects to find itself in a dogfight each and every season.
Murray returns for the Arabs
For the visitors, Simon Murray, sent off for simulation, has been cleared to play in the second leg after United submitted an appeal against his second booking – and having the striker available is a big boost to the chances of the Championship club.
Nevertheless, it is Canning’s team who seem to have the slight edge now; if it all goes wrong for United on Sunday, they may ruefully reflect on what could and, perhaps, should have been a 1-0 first leg lead after referee Steven McLean waved away United’s penalty kick claims late in the second half when Murray received his controversial second yellow card.
Hamilton’s home record is decent enough; the Accies have been beaten in just five of their last 19 home games in all competitions and their most recent appearance at New Douglas Park was surely one of their most enjoyable, for they destroyed Dundee there on the final day of the Premiership season, winning 4-0.
Accies tough nut to crack
Three years ago, Accies overturned a 2-0 play-off final first leg deficit to relegate Hibernian at Easter Road and it is their ability to stay in the fight even when they look down and out that might just be the catalyst for Canning’s men to remain in the top tier of Scottish football this weekend.
The side from New Douglas Park know what it takes to get the job done and, on their own – artificial – playing surface, they have proven a tough nut to crack at times this season.
There is no place like home and Accies are good value at 6/5 with William Hill to prove the point by winning on Sunday to preserve their Premiership place for another year.
Hamilton v Dundee United – Hamilton to win (6/5 William Hill)