THE impact of Brian Rice at Hamilton was hailed by his players during the week following the draw with Dundee, but it was plain for all to see at the Hope CBD Stadium as Accies claimed a huge three points against St Johnstone last night.

Not only were the two goals it took to shake off the visitors scored by one of the new manager’s deadline day signings in George Oakley, but it was two of his substitutes that created the goals too. Over and above that, the whole Accies side just has a different feel to it, as if the shackles have been loosened and they are suddenly free to express themselves on the park. Silky, free-flowing football it may quite not have been, but it was a definite improvement on the fare served up so far this season under previous boss Martin Canning.

They also had the resolve on the night to bounce back from a Liam Craig leveller for St Johnstone that would have knocked the wind out of Hamilton sides of the past, digging in to give their manager a landmark night.

“It’s my first win as a coach,” Rice said. “I told the boys I’ll never forget it. We deserved it. We put a lot of balls in, had high energy and were on the front foot.

"St Johnstone had passages which caused us problems but we dealt with them. They threw the kitchen sink at us and we held on.

“I’m delighted with the response so far. Hamilton has always been renowned for their spirit, but it’s got away from that a bit. I want to get that back. Spirit shown at both ends.

“I want the people of Hamilton to be proud of their team.”

There wasn’t a great deal to write home about in a first half that started in lively fashion but then petered out into a midfield battle, but it all kicked off after the break.

Accies almost got the opener after Joe Shaughnessy bundled down Steve Davies 25 yards from goal, with Steven Boyd’s free-kick clipping the top of the St Johnstone wall and only just clearing the bar with Zander Clark wrong-footed.

The home fans didn’t have to wait long to celebrate though, as substitute Mikel Miller burst down the left and fired a ball low across the area that Oakley sidefooted home from close range.

The lead was short-lived, and this time it was a St Johnstone substitute that carved open the opposition as Chris Kane got in down the right and fired a lovely low ball across the area for Craig to fire home at the far post.

In times past, that might have been the signal for Accies to capitulate, but they hit back immediately to re-take the lead. Again, it was another one of Rice’s substitutes that made the difference, as Tony Andreu picked up a slack clearance from Clark and swung the ball in for Oakley to guide his second of the game under the Saints keeper.

There were some nervy moments late on as Accies clung to their lead for grim death, not least of all as Michael O’Halloran got in behind only for Ziggy Gordon to appear from nowhere and get a heroic block in to secure a hard-fought victory.

On the other side of the coin, Tommy Wright now faces up to a third game in four against Celtic in the Scottish Cup on Sunday, and they will have to improve some from here to avoid yet another defeat.

“We’ll see what Celtic’s team is before I say Celtic might be a good game to go into or not,” said Wright.

“I laughed when I heard their injuries and saw their starting lineup.

“We can’t let the two defeats to Celtic to affect us. I was expecting more from my team in this game, going and grabbing the game but we didn’t do it.”