Wednesday, May 11, 2011

SPL: Hamilton's Fate Sealed

In the end Hamilton had left their late rally too late. A good couple of months too late.

A season that began with back to back 4-0 defeats ended last night in relegation with a game to spare.

St Johnstone ended up the executioners. But Hamilton had were the authors their own death warrant.

Recent form suggested Hamilton were determined to cling on, to make a real fight it. But there was too much to do.

Too much for a team that have been unfailingly ineffectual - and often just downright bad - this season.

The late display of some tenacity perhaps looked more impressive because it came in a season of such misery.

After losing eight goals in their two opening games Hamilton then won 1-0 at Inverness. Another six games passed without a win before they went to Motherwell and secured another 1-0 victory.

That game was on the 30th October. It wasn't until the 17th of April - 22 league games later - that Hamilton won again with a 2-1 victory at Easter Road.

It was that win over Hibs that sparked the mini revival, a draw against Aberdeen was then followed by a win away to St Mirren and the first home win of the season against Hibs.

None of it was ever likely to be enough. Their only real hope would have been if they could play Hibs every week.

What went wrong?

Players offering quality left and the resources were not there to replace them adequately.

The lack of a proper goalscorer will be mentioned in many a post mortem. And, self evidently, a return of 23 goals so far this season is woeful.

But St Johnstone share that dire scoring record. The Perth side have converted those 23 goals into 11 wins compared to Hamilton's 5 and 43 points to Hamilton's 26.

The lack of goals hasn't helped but it's not the only cause of Hamilton's failure. The dearth of quality runs throughout the team, the shortage of goals as much a symptom of problems elsewhere as it is a reason for their relegation.

The buck stops with the manager?

It does.

But Billy Reid has had Hamilton punching above their weight for a while now. He simply ran out of options. Does he now regret not leaving on one of the many occasions when his name was linked with other jobs?

Worryingly for a team about to drop into the First Division is Hamilton's lack of fight at times this season. Even the more creditable results during that long spell without a win seemed to be caused more by ineffective opposition than any triumph of Hamilton's collective will.

Pundits like to talk about teams on a bad run of form suddenly getting nothing but bad luck.

Maybe it consoles those in the game to resort to superstition rather than lay blame or start making accusations of incompetence.

But bad teams don't need bad luck or a witch's curse to go down. Being bad is often enough. And Hamilton have been bad this season.

All of which should serve as a wake up call to the clubs immediately above them.

There but for the grace of Hamilton's lack of ability go St Mirren, Aberdeen or Hibs.

Where next for Hamilton?

The First Division is an inhospitable place where penury rules and a long season beckons. Belts will need to be tightened. Rumours earlier this season suggested the Accies were but a couple more weeks of bad weather away from major financial collapse.

Maybe that was just whisper and supposition. But they certainly look set to let a major cost cutting excercise loose on a squad that is already struggling.

This year their average attendance has dropped below 3000. Only Gretna have suffered that ignominy in the SPL before. Even as they sought to establish themsevles as a fixture in the top flight Hamilton have been shedding fans.

Will relegation persuade them back?

A struggling squad likely to be further weakened, penny pinching the order of the day. And a real need to start somehow reconnecting with supporters.

Yesterday was a dark day for Hamilton.

Unfortunately for them I can't see anyone turning the light back on in a hurry.