Hamilton Accies took a huge step towards securing Championship safety after thrashing promotion hopefuls Partick Thistle.
Striker David Moyo inspired Accies to victory, with his persistence in the build-up to the opener allowing Andy Ryan to net before the Zimbabwe international netted a fine strike in first half stoppage time for his third goal in two games.
Early in the second half Ryan made sure of it with a thumping strike off the post before Andy Winter added some gloss with the fourth, as Accies enjoyed some fun in the sun at Firhill.
It leaves seventh-place Accies nine points clear of ninth-place Queen of the South, who currently occupy the relegation play-off spot, with six games to go.
Both sides now meet at New Douglas Park next weekend.
The victory for Stuart Taylor’s men is also the first time they’ve got the better of the Jags this season, following two defeats and a draw in the campaign, and serves up a bit of revenge for Accies’ 6-1 defeat earlier in the season.
Taylor made three changes from last week’s 2-2 draw with Dunfermline as Josh Mullin, Ellis Brown and Kai Kennedy all dropped to the bench. Captain Brian Easton returned to the starting line-up alongside Ryan and Winter.
The Jags – who couldn’t fill their bench and were without top scorer Brian Graham – initially made two changes from the side that last at Morton in their last outing. Gaffer Ian McCall opted to bring in Tunji Akinola and former Motherwell man Robbie Crawford in place of Brian Graham and Richard Foster. However, just before kick-off a late change was made as Alex Jakubiak was replaced by Rangers loanee Juan Alegria.
The first chance of the game fell to Accies within three minutes when Moyo’s knock down on the edge of the box fell to Ryan, but his weak effort was straight at Jamie Sneddon in the Jags goal.
The early exchanges were scrappy; a situation in no way helped by the horrendous surface. Firhill has taken a bettering this term amid the ground share with League One Queen’s Park and it was always going to be difficult to play free-flowing football on a bobbly, cut-up, dry surface.
And the surface had a small helping hand in Accies’ opener on 19 minutes.
A pass back to Sneddon slowed up on the surface a little and that allowed Moyo to close the ball down. His block of him looped right up into the air in the penalty area and, when Sneddon spilled the loose ball as it fell from the sky, Moyo pounced to pinch possession and cut the ball back for the inrushing Ryan to slot home the opener.
It took Thistle until the 38th minute to get a real sight on goal when a cross into the box was cleared as far as Kyle Turner, but he snatched at his shot and it sailed over the crossbar.
As half-time approached, the hosts pushed for a leveller but it was Accies who grabbed the second goal of the game in first half-stoppage time.
Dan O’Reilly fed Moyo down the left-hand side of the box and he took on his man before drilling a low strike into the bottom corner beyond Sneddon to silence the Firhill faithful. It’s Moyo’s eight goals of the season.
At the interval the Jags introduced defender Steven Bell for Crawford as they went to three at the back.
But just 50 seconds into the second half Accies almost grabbed a third when Kieran MacDonald got to the byline and cut the ball back for Moyo, only for the on-form striker to poke the ball wide of the target.
It was all Accies and when a fortuitous deflection off Moyo fell into the path of Winter, Sneddon produced a solid block with his feet to turn his low drive behind for a corner.
From the resulting set piece, McDonald deliver the ball to the back post and Popescu cleverly gave the ball back for Ryan to hammer home a fierce strike off the post to leave Partick stunned.
In 63 minutes it got even better for the visitors. Moyo attempted a ball over the top for Winter but just as it looked as if Ciaran McKenna had dealt with it, his slack header back was pounced upon by Winter and he scoopoped the ball over Sneddon for Hamilton’s fourth of the day.
That sent plenty of Partick fans packing as they ended up suffering their heaviest defeat of the season, with Accies seeing the game oiut with ease.
PARTICK: Sneddon, Mayo, Holt, Akinola, McKenna, Crawford (Bell 46), Turner, Bannigan, Docherty, Turner, Alegria (Hendrie 56), Smith (Stanway 72).
Bookings: Alegria, Akinola
Subs not used: Firth.
HAMILTON: Fulton, Popescu, O’Reilly, Hamilton, Easton, Winter (Brown 63), MacDonald, Lawson, Ryan, Spence (Mullin 72), Moyo.
Scorers: Ryan 19, 50, Moyo 45, Winter 63
Bookings: Hamilton, Popescu
Subs not used: Hughes, J Smith, Kennedy, Shiels, Mullin, Mimnaugh, Brown, L Smith.
Ref: Andrew Dallas
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.