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Rice hails super Marios and Accies strike partner Oakley

Hamilton manager Brian Rice hailed the performances of strike partners George Oakley and Marios Ogkmpoe in Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Hearts.

Oakley grabbed a brace to take his tally for the season to three, while Ogkmpoe also put in a tireless shift to cause the hosts problems.

Hearts manager Craig Levein even admitted after the game that his team’s defensive showing “was not good enough”.

Although delighted with his side’s collective display, Rice admits his forwards set the tone from the front.

He said: “I like to play two up and I think it causes problems. It’s a real difficult shift for one player to be up there on his own but sometimes personnel dictates that.

“I’ve got two lads up there who are big, physical and strong and the two of them can run.

“We can see that George can score goals and Mario had chances as well against Hearts.

“It gives the rest of the lads confidence knowing if they can get the ball up to them that we have the lads up there who are prepared to put the work in to try and keep it.”

Sean Clare gave Hearts the lead after 20 minutes with a close-range finish before Oakley took advantage of defensive indecision five minutes after the restart to poke the ball past goalkeeper Colin Doyle.

Hearts captain Christophe Berra headed the home side back in front in the 58th minute but Oakley ensured Accies left with a share of the spoils with his strike from 16 yards in the 73rd minute.

The draw extends Hearts’ winless Premiership run to eleven matches and manager Levein faced chants to step down from angry supporters.

Hearts handed a debut to on-loan Manchester City playmaker Ryo Meshino from the bench, while Steven Naismith had to settle for a cameo role after suffering a slight setback in his recovery from a hamstring injury.

However, Levein insists the former Everton and Kilmarnock player will still link up with the Scotland squad for the forthcoming Euro 2020 qualifiers against Russia and Belgium.

He said: “He came in on Saturday morning and said his hammy felt tight and a bit sore.

“He wasn’t confident he could play 90 minutes. He thought the problem would be tiredness in that the longer he played the more likely he would make it worse.

“I don’t think he injured it but I think he’s OK to go away with Scotland, although I don’t think he’s capable of playing 90 minutes.”

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