Accies to gain upper hand

  • By: Colin Ross
  • Last Updated: May 21 2014, 20:21 BST

Our Colin Ross expects Hamilton to claim a first-leg advantage when they face Hibs in their SPFL play-off on Wednesday night.

Alex Neil's men have the winning habit; Hibs simply don't
Alex Neil's men have the winning habit; Hibs simply don't

Scotland's 12th Premiership club for the 2014/15 season will be confirmed on Sunday afternoon.

Hamilton and Hibernian are those battling for it, with the former looking to move up and the latter desperately trying to retain their long-standing top-flight status.

The first leg of the play-off tie takes place on Wednesday evening at Hamilton's New Douglas Park. Such is the interest both games are all-ticket sell-outs and live TV rights have been eagerly snapped up by Sky and BT.

With no live football competition, the clubs and the SPFL have centre stage and a captive audience to give Scottish football further opportunity to show that progress is being made.

The tie itself looks finely balanced. Shrewd judges of the game in Scotland are divided in opinion of the outcome, with one or two willing to say that extra-time following Sunday's second leg at Easter Road is more than possible.

Personally I feel momentum is with the Accies - see some of the stats below - and, without doubt, mental strength and toughness lies with the west of Scotland side.

Hamilton are tough to overcome and the togetherness of the squad is easily apparent when manager Alex Neil speaks of really hard team selections, but yet acceptance by the players that the goal is Premier football.

Stats can show the gap between the top half of Championship and the bottom few in Premiership is closer than maybe many casual observers think.

Hamilton were Championship top scorers with 68 goals in the 36 league games.

James Keatings, Antony Andreu, Mickael Antione-Curier and Jason Scotland were all in double figures.

In their last 15 league matches, Hamilton gained nine wins, five draws and suffered just one defeat.

An interesting point is that the team that took the field when the run started in mid-February contained 11 of the 14 players who edged out Falkirk over two legs last week.

This contrasts wildly with Hibernian. They were the league's lowest scorers with only 31 goals in 38 matches and no Hibee reached double figures on the goals column.

The last 15 league matches for the Easter Roaders showed one win, four draws and 10 defeats.

The side who beat Ross County in February were comfortably vying for sixth spot with St Johnstone. Only five of the 14 on duty that day played against Kilmarnock in Hibs' last match.

I break down Scottish matches in many ways and, of course, current form and squad strength remains one and two in the punting bible.

I'm 100 per cent convinced that Hamilton would have competed far better than Hibs in the last 15 games if they were a Premier team and conversely Hibs would never have achieved a record close to the Accies if they played final 15 matches in Championship.

Raith Rovers beat Hibs in Edinburgh in the Scottish Cup. The same Raith won the Ramsden's Challenge Cup beating Rangers in the final. For the record, the competitive and competent Raith could only finish seventh in the Championship, a distant 25 points behind Hamilton.

Form and stats won't win you matches though and Hibs will take a large and passionate support to Hamilton on Wednesday. Such is the frailty of the Hibees squad, Terry Butcher will surely adopt a cautious approach and pray that his goal-shy bunch can nick a goal.

The bookies markets are not giving us a shed load of value. I did mention last week that the Premier odds of 4/6 Hibs, 3/1 Hamilton and 7/2 Falkirk gave us an edge on the Accies and we had an interest.

I have been in the Hamilton camp fairly regularly this campaign and they were more than a tad unfortunate not to gain automatic promotion. Hibs will have to improve, though where from I am not sure, and feel the 8/5 about a first-leg win is some value for a Hamilton team that will not lack confidence and commitment.

They can also score goals and play attractive football, something the Hibs have not achieved in months.

  • Colin provides further tips via SCOTFOOTY4PROFIT, a simple, low-cost text and email service, providing quality selections on Scottish football. And as a special offer to sportinglife.com users, he's offering his service for free over the final weeks of the season. For full details of his service and the offer, contact him at: colin.scotfooty@btconnect.com.

  • Posted at 1050 BST on 20/05/2014.