HAMILTON piled on the misery for Kilmarnock yesterday, beating them comfortably in spite of playing for over a third of the match with only 10 men.

For Italian manager Angelo Alessio, whose appointment is looking increasingly ill-starred, it was a third successive defeat.

Should Accies stretch that sequence to four in the Betfred Cup in Ayrshire on Saturday, the Italian could be staring down the barrel.

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His body language on the touchline was impossible to read but he claimed to be exasperated by his team’s performance.

“We’re disappointed and very angry because we conceded two stupid goals,” he said. “At the same time we created a lot of chances to score but there were some great saves from their goalkeeper or mistake from our strikers but this is football.

“At the beginning we had control of the match but at the first situation we conceded. We had possession, we moved the ball well and created chances to score. Then, in the second half, we conceded another goal and it was very difficult to come back.”

While the match took its time to catch fire, the visiting support contented themselves by chanting: "Glasgow Rangers – it’s never your fault" – a reference to the damage done by that club’s fans at Rugby Park last weekend. However, they were less amused when their team fell behind after 20 minutes of lacklustre sparring.

It was a typical Accies’ goal; Scott McMann shelled it 50 yards up the pitch from the left-back position, Aaron McGowan nodded it down and Lewis Smith curled a shot into Laurentiu Branescu’s bottom right-hand corner from the edge of the penalty area.

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Kilmarnock responded with a 20-yarder from Eamonn Brophy which Owain Fon Williams saved at full stretch and a Chris Burke corner which Kirk Broadfoot headed wastefully wide.

The hosts were not content to defend what they had, though; Blair Alston dispossessed Alan Power just inside the home half and released Smith, who ought to have done better than fire straight down the goalkeeper’s throat. Smith was causing Killie all sorts of problems and would have doubled his tally from six yards had it not been for Power’s sliding tackle.

Whatever Alessio said to his players at half-time didn’t work as Hamilton increased their lead with a well-worked passing move. And yes, you read that correctly.

It climaxed with the omnipresent Smith drilling in a low shot which George Oakley, lunging in, deflected behind Branescu. After that, it was mayhem. Referee Bobby Madden ignored legitimate claims for a penalty when Stuart Findlay shoved Oakley to the ground as he attacked a Smith cross and, as Killie broke away, he dismissed Hamilton captain Brian Easton for cleaning out Liam Millar.

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That should have prompted a revival for the pre-match favourites but it failed to materialise. Owain Fon-Williams kept out substitute Innes Cameron’s header from point-blank range and that was the best Alessio’s men could muster by way of response.

Rice was fulsome in his praise for the Welshman, whose mind had been on more pressing matters during the build-up to this encounter.

“His baby girl has been ill all week and has been in hospital so for him to play was great credit to him,” he said. “He was in the hospital in the evening then training next morning. There was never any question about whether he’d play or not; it’s the character of the guy.”

The clubs meet again for a place in the quarter-finals of the BetFred Cup at Rugby Park, a meeting which increasingly looks like a must-win for the beleagured Alessio. What his predecessor, the watching Scotland manager Steve Clarke, made of it is anyone’s guess.