Hearts claimed a well-deserved point at New Douglas Park despite playing more than half the match with ten men.
Igor Rossi was sent off towards the end of the first half for a rash challenge on Hamilton’s Darren Lyon. Hearts still created the better chances of the match after the break, with Blazej Augustyn and Dario Zanatta both heading against the crossbar either side of a late dismissal for Accies substitute Jesus Garcia-Tena.
In the end, third-place Hearts were disappointed at not winning the match, but the point they collected took them eight points clear of nearest challengers Ross County.
Robbie Neilson, who usually opts to tinker his team on a game-to-game basis, picked the same XI that crushed Motherwell 6-0 eight days previously. That meant a fourth successive league start for Billy King, while Gavin Reilly, another player who endured a frustrating first half of the season, started a sixth consecutive match in all competitions. The two marquee summer signings, Juwon Oshaniwa and Juanma Delgado, again had to be content with a place on the subs’ bench.
After a low-key start to the match, Hamilton’s Ali Crawford had the first attempt on goal but his 14th minute free-kick from just outside the box was easily held by Neil Alexander. Seconds later, Lyon jinked in from the right and pinged a shot just over the bar from 15 yards out.
Hearts’ first opening of the match came in the 18th minute when Rossi met Alim Ozturk’s free-kick at the back post and saw his shot beaten away by Michael McGovern. The rebound fell to Callum Paterson in a central position ten yards out but his strike was held by the Accies goalkeeper.
Following a lull in proceedings, Hearts striker Osman Sow got a decent sight of goal when he was put through by a Miguel Pallardo pass, but the Swede snatched at his shot from just outside the box and pulled it well wide. Two minutes later, Prince Buaben cut in from the left and drilled a low shot harmlessly wide from 16 yards out.
Hearts should have gone ahead in the 36th minute when Buaben dinked a cross into the path of King on the right, but the winger’s powerful angled strike was beaten away by McGovern. As Hamilton tried to clear the danger in the immediate aftermath of that chance, Rossi and Lyon came together inside the box, with both players going for the ball in a clumsy fashion and injuring each other. Players from both sides waded in and, when the dust settled, referee Bobby Madden flashed a straight red card at Rossi, whose feet had been off the ground. Hearts pair Ozturk and Buaben, as well as Hamilton’s Darian MacKinnon, were booked for their involvement in the melee that followed the collision.
Hearts immediately sent Jordan McGhee on to replace the dismissed Brazilian at left-back, with Reilly sacrificed. The visitors made their second substitution of the match at the interval when Zanatta replaced King.
Although a man down, Hearts coped reasonably comfortably with Accies in the early stages of the second half. Crawford and Imrie both threatened either side of an Ozturk free-kick that sailed harmlessly over the bar.
The hosts were enjoying the lion’s share of the possession, but it wasn’t until the 64th minute that Alexander was called into the action, with the Hearts goalkeeper diving down to his right to claw out a goal-bound Mikey Devlin header.
Hearts, who were an occasional threat on the counter-attack, sensed they could win the game and they almost went ahead in the 75th minute when Augustyn powered a header off the bar after meeting an Ozturk cross six yards out.
The numbers were evened up with four minutes left when Garcia-Tena was shown a straight red card for a wild lunge on Arnaud Djoum. From the resulting free-kick, Zanatta’s six-yard header came back off the bar. Hearts finished in the ascendancy, with substitute Juanma almost forcing a close-range effort in right at the death.
Hamilton: (4-5-1) McGovern; Gordon, Devlin, Tagliapietra (Garcia-Tena 46), Kurakins; Imrie, Lyon (Brophy 75), Crawford, MacKinnon (Docherty 46), Kurtaj; D’Acol. Subs: Martin, Morris, Nade, Mandiangu.
Hearts: (4-4-2) Alexander; Paterson, Augustyn, Ozturk, Rossi; King (Zanatta 46), Pallardo, Djoum, Buaben; Reilly (McGhee 40), Sow (Juanma 70). Subs: Hamilton, Oshaniwa, Swanson, Beith.
Referee: Bobby Madden