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Ross County avoid automatic relegation from the Scottish Premiership as Spittal and Lakin fire them to win over Hamilton

By Andrew Henderson

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Ross County 2 (Spittal, Lakin)

Hamilton Academical 1 (McMann)

Ross County made sure that they will not face automatic relegation from the Premiership this season with a 2–1 win over Hamilton Academical.

Kilmarnock's draw with St Mirren means that they can still overtake the Staggies on goal difference, but goals from Blair Spittal and Charlie Lakin have at least made sure County will not finish bottom of the table.

With so much on the line for both clubs, it was perhaps no surprise that it was a cagey start to the match.

Charlie Lakin scored the winning goal against Hamilton to ensure that Ross County will not finish bottom of the table. Picture: Ken Macpherson
Charlie Lakin scored the winning goal against Hamilton to ensure that Ross County will not finish bottom of the table. Picture: Ken Macpherson

In fact, nerves may have led to one or two rash challenges early on, with Aaron Martin and Stephen Kelly each being shown yellow cards in the opening minutes.

An early goal for Kilmarnock will not have settled the nerves of anyone watching at home or on the sidelines, as it put County into the relegation play-off spot in the live table, but things would get even worse for the hosts after 25 minutes.

A clumsy foul right on the edge of their own box – some Hamilton players wanted a penalty – gave the Accies a good chance to take the lead from a free kick.

Scott McMann stepped up to take it, and duly placed the ball under County's wall to give Hamilton the lead, and temporarily send the Staggies to the bottom of the table.

While the story of their matches so often has been conceding immediately after scoring, this time John Hughes' men reversed the script to equalise two minutes later.

Jordan White did well to hold the ball up under pressure inside the visitors' box, before laying it off for a teammate.

Kelly looked like he might hit it, but he will be glad he left that responsibility to Blair Spittal as the former Partick Thistle and Dundee United man picked out the bottom corner.

Hamilton did threaten to regain the lead soon after however, as Ross Callachan charged forward and hit the post from 20 yards out.

Those chances gave way to a largely scrappy second half though.

McMann and Callachan each missed the target with headers, while Kelly blazed over the bar with a half volley from range.

County were forced into a defensive reshuffle though, losing both Alex Iacovitti and Leo Hjelde to injury.

Although concerning, the latter did give the Staggies a more attacking option at left back as Charlie Lakin was sent on in the teenager's place.

It proved to be a blessing in disguise, as just minutes after coming on, in his first foray into the Hamilton third, the Birmingham loanee sweetly struck a shot from the corner of the box that beat Kyle Gourlay and nestled in the net.

Knowing that defeat could relegate them depending on results elsewhere, Hamilton tried to raise the intensity level in search of an equaliser.

They could not find a breakthrough though, with Iain Vigurs having the best chance of the closing stages with a free kick that he sent over the bar.

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