Whether Dundee could come close to reaching the heights they hit in the derby match a few days earlier was always going to be the issue here.
After all, this was quite a considerable contrast from events the previous Monday when, courtesy of denying Dundee United the win they required to avoid relegation, they applied the proverbial final nail in their city rivals’ coffin, much to the delight of their ecstatic supporters who had rolled up in such big numbers to witness what was a nightmare scenario for their neighbours.
Five days on, Dens Park was almost unrecognisable from the stadium which had atmosphere reverberating around it long before kick-off on Monday night, and which ultimately exploded when Craig Wighton’s injury-time winner extinguished any hopes United harboured of escaping the drop at the home of their biggest foes.
With so much energy and emotion surrounding the occasion it was perhaps inevitable that Paul Hartley’s players fell short against Hamilton who, in turn, secured their own Premiership safety with a well-deserved win.
But the manner in which they were way off the pace was somewhat surprising and the biggest source of irritation for their manager, who’s demanding his side finish the season with two wins – at home to Kilmarnock on Wednesday and away to Inverness on Saturday – to ensure they indeed finish seventh after the recent disappointment of missing out on another top-six place.
Carlton Morris, Hamilton’s on-loan Norwich striker, was in part helped along his way to net the only goal of the game after just eight minutes, pouncing on some slack defending within the home side’s ranks and duly punishing them with a sweet finish into Scott Bain’s far corner.
Nick Ross did miss a sitter for the Dark Blues which might have altered the flow of things but, in truth, they didn’t turn up and were fortunate when Eamonn Brophy’s 47th minute goal was disallowed for offside by referee Steven McLean after lengthy consultation with his assistant referee.
Hartley offered no excuses for such a showing and Dark Blues defender Kevin Holt wasn’t about to try to deflect from a below-par showing which had the feel of one of those meaningless end-of-season encounters.
Holt said: “It was up to us to raise our game after the derby but we didn’t really do it. That is down to the players – we didn’t play the way we know we can.
“We showed we can raise it for big games like Monday but we know we need to do that in every game.
“We can’t always rely on the crowd although they were brilliant on Monday. It was a bit quieter but we should still have lifted ourselves.
“We knew how big it was for the fans on Monday and then it was a case of getting back to work on Tuesday.
“Training was good and although we had a few injuries we can’t make any excuses for this performance.”
Dundee, it must be said, were without the services of both Paul McGowan and Gary Harkins – who are both out until next season through injury – and as such lacked the creative spark that Hartley bemoaned afterwards.
On the bright side, they remain seventh in the table after rivals Inverness lost to relegated United on Friday night, and Holt knows victories in their remaining two games would see them seal that spot.
Allowing the season to simply fizzle out at this late stage is not an option and finishing anything less than seventh would be regarded as a further disappointment, so motivation surely won’t be a problem this week.
Holt said: “Friday’s game helped us and Partick winning tightens things up but it is still in our hands.
“We have two games left and just need to win them both. Once we knew we weren’t getting top-six we wanted to finish seventh.
“We don’t want anything below that. The target was to win all five games and that is a disappointment today. Now we have two games to redeem ourselves to remain seventh.”
Hartley, who intends to speak to his out-of-contract players this week as they build towards next season, recognises the need for further recruitment in the summer, having already secured Inverness duo James Vincent and Danny Williams on pre-contracts.
Hartley said: “We could only go with 15 players again. So the squad is really thin.
“We do need reinforcements and we’re looking to bring a couple of players in.”
Accies boss Martin Canning maintained his players deserved all the credit for securing Premiership status.
It has been a tough season for the Lanarkshire club, who dropped out of the top six having been there for most of the season, and Canning reckons those on the field have got the club to where they want to be.
He said: “It’s all about the players. I can’t speak highly enough of them in every aspect. They have dug deep again and deserve everything they get. I could never fault them for their effort and application.
“Of course, there have been difficult moments throughout the course of the season but they are a great group. They rose to the challenge so deserve credit.”