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Oakley backs Rice to inspire Hamilton to Premiership safety

Brian Rice’s ability to raise Hamilton’s spirits as well as their standards will be key to Accies winning their fight for survival, according to striker George Oakley.

The former AFC Wimbledon and Inverness frontman beat the January transfer deadline to sign on the same day as Rice was appointed.

Martin Canning’s successor inherited a team just two points off the bottom but with three wins and a draw from his first eight games, Rice has already stretched that lead over basement boys St Mirren to seven.

And Oakley believes that is down to his new boss’ determination to ensure his players keep a smile on their faces as well as their minds on the job.

He said: “Since the gaffer has been here, I’ve never felt any added pressure. I’ve been able to go out there and enjoy my football which is so important.

“When you are enjoying your football, the world is your oyster.

“When you’re in the position we’re in, it’s about who wants the result most and the spirit we have at this club is amazing.

“When we have a bad result, we don’t spend long looking back at it because the manager is such a positive guy. He doesn’t want to look back over the negative stuff.

“We might take a look at the things he wants us to get better at but that’s his approach. He’s all about working with a smile on your face.

“But I tell you now, he might like a laugh and a joke in the dressing room, but as soon as you cross that white line he goes into serious mode.

“You won’t get a laugh out of him. He just wants perfection because he believes if we can do what he’s telling us out on the training pitch then that will make it easier to do on a Saturday.

“Everyone likes to have a laugh at some point but he’s got a good mix. He knows when it is time to get down to work.”

Accies’ advantage over the drop zone could grow again this weekend St Mirren take on second bottom Dundee while Hamilton travel to Kilmarnock.

But to beat Steve Clarke’s side at Rugby Park, Oakley believes his team will have to replicate the displays that recently upset Aberdeen and Hearts and not the one which led to a 3-0 derby defeat against Motherwell.

“I can’t put my finger on the reasons for some of our recent results,” he confessed. “We go from one week where we are so good and everything we work on in training comes off in the game.

“But then the next week things just fall apart and I don’t get why that happens. I guess we’re all scratching our heads.

“We’ve been staying positive, looking at the games where things haven’t gone right and realised that they are easily fixed. That’s what we’re now trying to do.”

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