better meddle...

wi' the de'il than the bairns o' fa'kirk

Match Report

Sunday, 9th November, 2008

by Ewan Smith

Hamilton 1-1 Falkirk

ACCIES wonderkid James McCarthy kicked off the biggest week of his life with the opener yesterday - then insisted he's ready to step up to the international scene. McCarthy is expected to be called in to the Ireland squad to face Poland later this month, finally ending Scotland's hopes of luring him in to George Burley's plans.

That call will come before he turns 18 on Wednesday and racks up his 82nd first team appearance for Hamilton.

But McCarthy, still cursing Michael Higdon's 48th minute strike that cancelled out his opener, said: "I've not had official confirmation from Ireland that I'm in the squad but if the call comes I'll be delighted.

"But I'm focused enough to know the most important thing this week is the game with Hearts."

"My birthday and everything else can wait. I'd like to think I've handled the pressure that has come to me in recent weeks well."

"The stick hasn't bothered me, I've just got on with my game and I'll keep on doing that."

McCarthy was a stand-out as Accies defied their league position and their 11-game losing streak to light up the first half with some free-flowing football.

They were immense and looked nothing like a side strangled by the fear of a relegation dogfight.

It took them just three minutes to have a go as McCarthy got on the end of a Mark Corcoran flick to chest the ball down and fire a 10 yard strike just wide.

Next up was Lucas Akins who latched on to Richard Offiong's clever touch to force Scott Flinders in to turning round his 15 yard effort for a corner.

The home side attcked in waves and wing-back Brian Easton was in sparkling form.

His foraging runs down the flank were a constant nuisance to Falkirk who couldn't seem to cope with him or teenage talisman McCarthy.

But the Bairns hadn't travelled to Lanarkshire just to make up the numbers and they were almost gifted the lead in 18 minutes as Steve Lovell pounced on an Alex Neil pass only to fire wide.

At the other end, Easton raced on to a Corcoran through-ball before unselfishly cutting back for Akins to slice wide.

But the goal Accies' play richly deserved came in 36 minutes and fittingly it fell to McCarthy.

Like Easton, the youngster's strong runs from midfield were tearing Falkirk open and he showed his predatory skills to pounce on some poor defending and fire a half-volley past Flinders from 18 yards.

Falkirk should have been level at the break. Neil McCann's tempting cross found Darren Barr in acres of space in the six-yard box but he couldn't direct his header on goal.

The Bairns brought on Higdon for the ineffective Patrick Cregg at the break and the Englishman made an instant impact with the equaliser in 48 minutes.

Burton O'Brien's cross was flicked on by Lovell and Higdon stole a yard to head home.

At the other end, McCarthy came close to his second goal of the day on the hour.

He did well to control a dipping effort from 18 yards but keeper Flinders was equal to the challenge with an outstanding fingertip save.

As the game wore on both sides went for broke with Hamilton coming closest through Joel Thomas who went on a superb mazy solo run into the box. But after leaving a trail of defenders in his wake his shot was stopped by the legs of Flinders.

That saved a point for battling Bairns and ensured Hamilton's winless streak continues for another week.

REF WATCH: CALUM MURRAY had cruised through the first half unnoticed but he then began to lose his grip of the match, sparking a spate of bookings as tempers flared during the second. Rating: 6/10.