Hamilton Academical 1-0 St Johnstone

MacKinnon scored early to give Hamilton victory

Hamilton Academical recorded their second Scottish Premiership win inside four days as St Johnstone suffered their second straight loss.

Darian MacKinnon scored the game's only goal and St Johnstone twice had to clear the ball off their own line.

Martin Canning almost gifted Saints a leveller when his clearance looped onto the bar.

And a late penalty appeal alarmed the home side when Saints claimed for a handball but Accies deserved victory.

Alex Neil's side are quickly and effectively adapting to life in the top-flight. The player-manager has kept faith with the players who earned promotion, and are enjoying the benefits of a settled side.

But Neil had to overcome his own unreliability after suffering a groin injury in last Wednesday's victory over St Mirren, and aggravated it during the warm-up.

His place in midfield in the starting line-up was taken by Stephen Hendrie - a left-back - but the home side could not be unnerved.

Injury prevented Neil from taking his place in the starting line-up

The club has a philosophy - based on rearing young talent and anchoring its identity and reach very much in the local community - and the team plays with a regular shape and style, so that Grant Gillespie stepping into Neil's position in the team did not disrupt their plans.

St Johnstone might have thought that they could steadily play their way to dominance, since they did not react with any urgency as the home side established their ascendancy.

Both teams were capable of passing the ball with care and consideration, but all of the adventure and briskness belonged to Hamilton.

Only a quarter of an hour had passed when a swift counter-attack allowed Mikael Antoine-Curier - a strong, burly, determined presence throughout up front for Hamilton - to bustle his way into space on the right before crossing for Darian MacKinnon.

The midfielder controlled the ball then clipped a shot goalwards that took enough of a deflection to send it bouncing over the dive of St Johnstone goalkeeper Alan Mannus.

The directness and intensity belonged to Hamilton, they pressurised their opponents and when they broke upfield it was with pace and in numbers. St Johnstone were overwhelmed at times, and it took a brilliant diving save from Mannus to stop Ali Crawford adding a second with a fiercely-struck effort from 20 yards out.

St Johnstone won on opening weekend but now trail Accies after three matches

Hamilton were enthused, and Danny Redmond sliced through the St Johnstone defence with an astute pass that released Hendrie, but his shot was cleared off the line by Steven Anderson. It was typical of the way that Hamilton, always sharp into the tackle, kept looking to move the ball forward crisply and decisively.

By the end of the opening half, Saints looked a little beleaguered. They re-gathered some composure during the interval, and substitute Lee Croft surged past Hamilton keeper Michael McGovern, who had raced out of his box, only to see a cross headed clear by Canning.

That was the only time that McGovern was troubled. Even though the game was more even in the second half, it was only Accies who seemed capable of creating chances.

Dougie Imrie showed typical resourcefulness as he gathered the ball 20 yards out and hit a shot on target, but Mannus was able to hold the ball comfortably.

St Johnstone could only manage sporadic threats. That allowed the Hamilton defenders to remain composed, although Canning would have been concerned as his clearance from David Wotherspoon's cross sliced up into the air and sent the ball bouncing off the crossbar.

For all that Hamilton could take comfort from their grasp of the game, the scoreline was finely balanced.

There was almost reassurance, though, when Canning met a corner with a firm header, but the ball was cleared off the line by Steven MacLean.

St Johnstone refused to be forlorn, and a sustained attack ended with Dave Mackay steered a header just off the upright, but mostly the Hamilton defenders were strong and reliable.

Garcia Tena would, though, have been relieved when referee Bobby Madden adjudged that there was no intent when the ball hit the defender's arm inside his own penalty area.