THERE is an old joke about what would happen if a nuclear bomb went off in Hamilton (no, not improve the look of the place, you cruel lot) that the only things to survive would be cockroaches and Accies’ place in the Premiership.

In the lead-up to the game, Hamilton goalkeeper Gary Woods had bemoaned the fact that Hamilton never do it the easy way, but this was an uncharacteristically straightforward win to secure their safety against a St Johnstone side that couldn’t have been more in holiday mode had they turned up with inflatable crocodiles under their arms.

Hamilton will now play a record sixth consecutive season in the Scottish top-flight, as a first-half goal on his farewell appearance from Ziggy Gordon and a second-half strike from Steve Davies helped Brian Rice to achieve his goal of keeping his side in the division at the expense of the side he left to join them, with St Mirren finishing in the relegation play-off spot.

And it is Rice who deserves a huge amount of the credit for pulling off the feat, winning five, drawing four and losing just six of the 15 matches he has taken charge of since replacing Martin Canning in late January.

“It tops everything I’ve ever done in football,” Rice said. “All credit to the playing staff who have taken it on board. The work we’ve put in during afternoons and Sunday mornings has paid off for us.

“It’s not about Brian Rice. It’s about Hamilton and the players. I’m 55. I’m just delighted I got the chance to coach.

“My title is head coach and that says everything about me. I never wanted to be a manager. I’m at my happiest on the training pitch, whether it’s first team in the morning or the kids in the afternoon.

“I think it speaks volumes for the players and the people behind the scenes. You never hear us talking about budgets. I’ve never mentioned budgets or crowds. You’ve got what you’ve got and my job is to make them better and to have a go and have a pathway for the young players.

“I think everyone knows how excited I am about young talent. Scotland is full of young talent and I’ve got a lot here. They’ll be part of my first team squad next year. That’s the lifeblood.”

For all of that, it was an old-stager that settled Hamilton down after just 11 minutes. They were looking dangerous in wide areas, creating three headed opportunities early on, with the last of those seeing Aaron McGowan bring out a great save from Zander Clark, who tipped the ball over. From the resultant corner though, Accies got the breakthrough.

Andreu swung the ball in, and following a melee, the ball fell kindly for Gordon to sweep home from a couple of yards out, a parting gift before a likely move to Dinamo Bucharest.

News then filtered through from Dens Park that Dundee had scored the opening goal against St Mirren, but any notion that Hamilton fans could relax was dispelled as word of Darren O’Dea’s red card soon followed.

There were more frayed nerves as a great ball into the box from Richard Foster allowed David Wotherspoon to sidestep Gordon’s desperate tackle and fire beyond Woods, only for McGowan to get back on the line and make a vital clearance.

Saints were chapping on the door, and Wotherspoon bent another effort just wide before Darian MacKinnon tried to relieve the pressure by powering his way through midfield and unleashing a powerful effort that only just cleared the crossbar.

An equaliser for St Mirren at Dens Park had the locals biting their fingernails again, but St Johnstone then gifted the home side a cushion as a ridiculous mix-up between Jason Kerr and Liam Gordon presented the ball to Davies 18 yards from goal. To be fair to the big man though, he fair gave the ball a thwack and it rocketed into the bottom corner.

The twists and turns from up north were suddenly irrelevant, and the Hamilton fans could even enjoy a late run-out for retiring club legend Dougie Imrie, his 504th career appearance.

For St Johnstone, the afternoon was a microcosm of why a quietly satisfying season never threatened to be an outstanding one.

“Days like this sum up why we didn’t get top six,” said a frustrated Tommy Wright. “We haven’t done our jobs at both ends of the pitch.

“There were some good things, we looked good on the eye but there was no cutting edge and no real drive to make things happen with the good possession we had.

“I’m happy [with the season overall]. 52 points. Since I’ve been here we’ve averaged over 50 every season. We’ve introduced young players, brought the average age down and got a strong squad to add the key pieces to. The key piece will be finding a striker.

“Hopefully we can find the one who makes a difference but I’m probably like a lot of other managers in the league in looking for 15 plus goals from someone. If we get that we start seriously thinking about top six and higher.”