From stunning Rangers with the opener at Ibrox to netting a double in the Lanarkshire derby, Hamilton Academical midfielder Ali Crawford has had a truly impressive start to the season.
Things haven’t gone quite so smoothly for the New Douglas Park outfit this season, but on the back of a three-game unbeaten run, their midfield maestro is remaining bullish.
Ladbrokes News caught up with the Accies ace to discuss assists, Aberdeen and the amazing experience of scoring a winner at Celtic Park. Over to you, Ali…
Ladbrokes News: You’ve been in fine goalscoring form again this season with six goals in all competitions already. What would you say are your main assets coming forward?
Ali Crawford: I’m pleased with the goals I’ve got so far, but I’d say my assists are the biggest thing I offer in attack.
I’ve set up quite a lot of goals over the past few seasons, especially from set-pieces, so those deliveries are a big part of my game.
I try to shoot when I have the opportunity, and I think I’m at my best again on that front. I scored 11 times in the top-flight in the first season after promotion [2014-15] but then just five last year.
The aim this season is to surpass that, and I’ve already found the net four times in the Ladbrokes Premiership so far this year. But I know it’s a skill that I absolutely have to keep working on.
LN: Among those goals was a superb strike in front of 49,000 fans at Ibrox. You’ve also netted the winner at Celtic Park in the past. What’s that experience like as a player? Is it extra special to score a goal at places like that?
AC: Yes, of course. They’re the places you want to test yourself at as a player, and to score at those grounds is an incredible experience.
They’re two of the best teams in the league, and scoring the winner at Parkhead was the best moment of my career so far. It was an amazing moment for myself – and the team.
LN: Accies have played some good football this season and taken the lead in a lot of games – but have often failed to hold on for a win. What do you put that down to?
AC: It’s very frustrating, and it’s also hard to put your finger on. We go ahead in a lot of games, and always create chances to score a second goal and extend that lead – but we’re not killing teams off when we have the opportunity, and that’s coming back to bite us in the bum!
LN: You’re now unbeaten in three games – following that 2-2 draw at Partick Thistle on Saturday. How important is it psychologically and for team morale, building an unbeaten run?
AC: It’s a massive positive for us – especially taking points away from home. That’s a really tough ask in this league, and the run we’re on gives us momentum to build on and positivity ahead of the next game. That’s massive when you’re facing a side with the quality of Aberdeen.
We’re confident as a squad that we can make New Douglas Park a fortress, and that has to be the aim. Our training sessions are always very intense, and our ethos is to play a really high-intensity pressing game and get the ball of the opposition as quickly as possible. We can make it uncomfortable for them.
LN: Next up is a meeting with Aberdeen on Tuesday next week. You managed a 1-1 draw with them at New Douglas Park last time out. Would you settle for a point again?
AC: They’re flying at the moment, having scored eight goals in the last two games, so the first aim is to make sure we’re tight at the back, and well-organised enough to keep a clean sheet.
It’s a home game, so we need to take something from it – but I think a point would be a good result, with the quality they possess all over the park.
LN: There was quite a big turnover in the summer. Several senior players left, but you’ve brought in talented guys like of Massimo Donati, Gary Woods and Rakish Bingham. How do you think the new boys have settled into the side so far?
AC: They’ve all adapted to life at Hamilton really well, both on the pitch and in the dressing room – especially Massimo, who grabbed a goal and an assist against Partick Thistle at the weekend.
He’s a fantastic player to have in the squad, with his experience and composure on the ball.
Gary Woods slotted in very well on his debut at Firhill, and the likes of Rakish and Danny Seaborne have added some extra quality too. I’m certain they’ll all continue their good form.
We’ve got a really good mix in the squad now, with more experienced guys like Dan coming in, and then the young talents like Eamonn Brophy coming through and chipping in with goals.
LN: You’ve finished seventh and tenth in the last two Ladbrokes Premiership campaigns. Do you think Accies have a realistic chance of a top-six finish this season, or is the focus on survival for another year?
AC: First and foremost, it’s about survival. If we can get anywhere higher up the table, that’s a bonus, really. The teams around us are dropping points, but we’ve failed to capitalise on that – and it’s something we need to change immediately.
At our best, we can beat any side in the Ladbrokes Premiership. We’ve proved that throughout the last few seasons. We just need to go out and do it consistently!
Those confident that Hamilton Academical can turn their season around in spectacular style can back them to finish top without the Old Firm at the huge odds of 150/1.
Meanwhile, it’s 25/1 for Crawford to finish the season as Ladbrokes Premiership top scorer. With four strikes to his name already, he could produce a windfall from a few quid if the goals dry up for the league’s current big guns.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing