Story of the match
While Hamilton are a constant thorn in the side of bigger and better-funded sides, the Staggies may thank the fixture computer for handing them such a winnable return to the top flight fixture on opening day. Despite a relatively even opening period, the Dingwall men soon took complete control of the first half. The Accies survived two decent penalty appeals before Joe Chalmers gave the home side the lead just after the half-hour, after good work from Billy McKay.
Bad turned to worse for Accies
Bad quickly went to worse for the visitors, as they lost Ciaran McKenna to injury, then conceded a very preventable second. While Staggies will point to good work by Ross Stewart in dispossessing Johnny Hunt and setting up McKay for the finish, Hamilton will have been desperately disappointed to concede in such a manner.
To their credit, Accies rallied after the break, with Blair Aston, Marios Ogkmpoe and Ross Cunningham all forcing saves from Ross Laidlaw in the home goal. However, it was the Highlanders who once again found the net, with Josh Mullins’ free-kick being headed home by the hard-working Stewart to make the points safe for County.
Despite another late effort from Alston, Accies were second best throughout and cannot complain about returning to Lanarkshire empty-handed. For County, though, this was the best possible start, with a clean sheet and three goals to add to their hugely impressive Betfred Cup group stage win.
Takeaways from the match
Staggies will look to maintain momentum
While co-managers Steven Ferguson and Stuart Kettlewell will not be expecting to trouble the top six this term, the Highlanders will be looking to take advantage of a relatively gentle opening set of fixtures, with home games against St Mirren and Livingston soon to come. Today’s comprehensive victory shows the Staggies are more than equipped to compete with their rivals in the battle for survival and may be looking to maintain their perfect start to the season and emulate Livingston’s stunning early season form of last year. While the Dingwall men may not quite match that feat, a continued good start could see them putting clear daylight between themselves and any slow starters.
Accies need to maintain their hunger
With manager Brian Rice branding his team’s performance “disappointing,” while admitting to BBC Sport that County “thoroughly deserved to win,” it was an inauspicious start for the visitors. Despite becoming a fixture in the SPFL, the law of averages suggests that Hamilton can’t keep flirting with relegation indefinitely. If the Lanarkshire side are to make progress, they’ll need to take whatever chances come their way. While five shots on target in an away game is a relatively decent return, Hamilton will need to start finding the net and picking up points if yet another relegation battle is to be avoided. Fighting the drop year-in-year-out can only be bad for morale, and a relatively decent start may be needed to lift heads and keep the Accies above the bottom two.
Man of the Match - Billy McKay
With County looking to their senior players to help gain a foothold back in the top flight, Billy McKay didn’t disappoint. A goal and an assist for the Northern Ireland international helped County to a 2-0 half-time lead. McKay’s SPFL and international experience will be invaluable to the Highlanders this season, with the former Inverness and Wigan man already off to a flyer.