ABERDEEN squandered the opportunity to turn up the heat up on Celtic by failing to secure the win which would have left them only one point behind the Premiership champions.

The draw in Lanarkshire still hoisted them into third place, a point above Hibs, but even that would have eluded them if it hadn’t been for a stunning one-handed save by Joe Lewis from substitute

David Moyo during injury time.

Hamilton, though, bolstered hopes that they may retain their top-tier status for an eighth successive campaign by ending a sorry sequence of five consecutive Premiership losses with a battling second-half

display which leaves them three points behind St Mirren at the foot of the table.

“I’m absolutely delighted with my players and the belief they showed that they are not going to get beaten,” said home manager Brian Rice. “We went in a goal down at half-time and we spoke about getting forward and getting in their faces a bit more so I was delighted by how they responded.

“There weren’t many clear-cut chances in the second half for either team but the one at the end could have flown into the top corner on another day. We’ll keep working hard and we’ll keep believing, keep getting better and trusting one another.”

Accies fell behind when the first clear-cut opening fell to the Dons in the 19th minute. Matty Kennedy’s cross took a benign deflection into the path of Wales winger Ryan Hedges and he drilled the loose ball emphatically behind Ryan Fulton. Two minutes later Sam Cosgrove unleashed a piledriver from 25 yards which the goalkeeper did superbly well to push on to his left-hand post at full stretch.

Brian Easton’s perfectly-

judged clearance denied Cosgrove what seemed a certain second with a diving header as Aberdeen pressed from the front, denying their opponents time and space and refusing to allow them to pass their way out of defence.

Derek McInnes’ men, by contrast, always appeared to have options when they were in possession and their gaffer, who criticised and cajoled loudly on the touchline, will have been disappointed only to be one in front at the interval.

They were to pay for not capitalising on their early dominance when Hamilton restored parity five minutes after the restart. Scott McMann’s free-kick was headed home by Marios Ogkmpoe from six yards, the striker’s third goal of the campaign.

Accies enjoyed their best spell of the evening immediately after the goal and, while they did not threaten to score another, nor did they look like conceding one.

The confident visitors of the opening 45 minutes had disappeared, replaced by a tentative team over-thinking everything and achieving nothing.

McInnes threw on Niall McGinn and Ryan Edmondson for Greg Leigh and Curtis Main in the 78th minute as the Dons began to exert some concerted pressure for the first time in the half.

Fulton beat away a fierce drive from Kennedy and Hedges’ effort from the rebound was headed behind for a corner, which Scotland defender Andy Considine nodded over.

“My first thought was that [their goal] must be offside because we held our line,” said McInnes. “I’ve seen the footage but it isn’t conclusive – but I don’t think it was a free-kick in the first place.

“To concede from their first attempt on goal was disappointing. But the goal gave Hamilton encouragement. They competed very well and battled for their point.”