Simon Murray’s last visit to Hamilton’s SuperSeal Stadium ended in heartache, Accies securing their place in the top flight for another season and ending Dundee United’s hopes of an immediate return to the Premiership via the play-offs.
Even though he knew it would be his last game for the Tannadice club having already pledged his future to Hibs, Murray admitted failing to win promotion in May before he said his goodbyes hit him hard.
And, he revealed, he was left wondering what might have been, the 25-year-old twice accused of diving in the first leg on Tayside and shown a yellow card on each occasion, leading to him being sent off. To this day, Murray is adamant he should have been awarded a penalty rather than an early bath and, with the game still goalless, he insisted the entire outcome of the play-off could have changed entirely.
As it was, United appealed the decision and Murray, who had scored in all four of his side’s previous play-off games against Morton and Falkirk, played in the second leg only for Greg Docherty to claim the only goal for the home side.
The flame-haired striker said: “It was a tough one to take – it was really hard at the time. I desperately wanted to help Dundee United back into the Premiership even though I knew I was coming to Hibs.
“It wasn’t the best day for the club, but it’s good to see them doing well this year. You never know what could have been if we’d been given that penalty in the first game but you just need to try to forget about it and move on.
“You learn every day in football, and that day was a big moment in my development. It could have gone better, but it went the opposite way. But you learn and grow – that’s the best way to be.”
Now, insisted Murray, that’s all behind him and his full concentration is on helping Hibs continue the impressive start they’ve made to their own first season back in the Premiership following a three year absence.
To do so, he admitted he and his team-mates need to bounce back from the disappointment of seeing a run of four successive wins ended in dramatic fashion by St Johnstone on a day on Hamilton pulled off a shock result with a 2-0 victory over Rangers at Ibrox.
He said: “They’ve been on a good run and beating Rangers was a great result for them. They are a very hard working team. They seem to be the favourites to go down every year but they seem to get better every year.
“We know it will be a tough game but, if we play the way we can, then there’s no reason we can’t win.”
Murray agreed, though, that Neil Lennon’s players will need to up their performance following their 2-1 defeat by Saints – Steven MacLean scoring the winner in injury time just moments after Anthony Stokes’ penalty had brought Hibs level – saying: “Last week was majorly disappointing considering the run we’d been on.
“We didn’t play during the whole 90 minutes but we were still within touching distance of getting a point which would have been fine considering how we played. We were on a good run before then and, if we win today, then it’s 15 points out of the last 18, which is great.”
Murray pinpointed David Templeton, who has scored in each of his last three matches, as Accies’ main threat, an opinion also based on what he saw when the former Hearts player pitched up at Tannadice on trial last season.
He said: “He came in to train with the boys and you could see he was quick, had great feet and he looks like he’s getting back to where he was when he was flying and got his move to Rangers. You could see he had great quality. He’s clever enough to drop into those wee pockets of space. But we’ve been watching videos and we know what to expect. He is a really good player and we know we’ll have a much better chance of winning if we find a way to stop him.”