Hamilton boss Brian Rice insists Jamie Hamilton’s early dismissal in the 2-0 defeat by Hibernian “100 per cent” changed the Scottish Premiership encounter at Easter Road.
The visitors started the game with impressive purpose but were reduced to 10 men in the 11th minute when the 18-year-old defender was shown a straight red card by referee Craig Napier for a challenge on Martin Boyle, who then fired the home side into the lead a minute later.
The Hibs forward then had a penalty saved by Accies goalkeeper Ryan Fulton before the break, but in the 69th minute his deflected cross was headed in by teenage defender Josh Doig for his first goal for the Edinburgh side.
Rice, who spoke to Boyle at half-time, said: “The referee has made the decision with the help of his assistant and I think you can tell by the tone of my voice how I feel about it.
“It changed the course of the game 100 per cent.
“Martin said, ‘he caught me but it wasn’t a bad tackle’. That’s all he said.”
Asked if he thought the reaction of the home players influenced the decision, the former Hibs midfielder said: “I don’t know if it influenced the decision, all I know is that someone at the sidelines said it was red, it’s as simple as that.
“I’m not going to get myself into trouble, my boys need me at the side of the pitch.
“I’m not going to go up in front of the SFA for something I’ve said. You have all seen it, I’ve got my own thoughts on it. You’ll see it on the TV, write what you see.
“I think there was a bit of contact but he touched the ball as well. Referees have got a very difficult job but they’re well paid for it.
“Jamie is gutted, he has been sent off again. It was a massive turning point. I thought we started the game fantastically well. Scott McMann had a shot and we hit the post.
“For 75 minutes we gave Hibs a run for their money with 10 men.”
Ross, whose in-form side remain third behind Rangers and Celtic, with a four-point lead over Aberdeen and a game in hand, said: “I would argue that it’s difficult to say the red card decision determined the end result, but it certainly changed the dynamic of the game.
“I was close to the challenge but I’ve only since seen it from a wide angle which tells me nothing.
“I thought Jamie was a bit high and reckless with the tackle. But I was still surprised when he was sent off.
“I don’t think there was real malice in it but it probably didn’t look great and because Martin is so quick, it maybe looks bad in real time.
“We had to work hard to win it because Brian’s team are in a good place. He got a reaction from them even with 10 men.
“They will be a difficult opponent for teams, so I’m pleased with the victory.”