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Brian Rice says absence of starters opens the door for other Hamilton players

Hamilton Academical v Rangers – Scottish Premiership – Fountain of Youth Stadium
(Image credit: Jane Barlow)

Hamilton head coach Brian Rice is confident he has players ready to make their mark after losing more regulars.

Ahead of last weekend’s win against Kilmarnock, Accies lost main striker Marios Ogkmpoe to a knee injury which requires surgery and will keep him out until the new year.

Key player Hakeem Odoffin will miss Saturday’s Scottish Premiership visit of Hibernian through suspension to join Will Collar, Shaun Want, Lewis Smith, David Templeton and Ogkmpoe on the sidelines.

“If you look at the lads that are missing, possibly all six of them are all first-team starters,” Rice said.

“But it opens the door for others. There’s no point worrying or complaining about the boys that are missing, we have to look after the boys that are fit.

“We lost Marios last week and David (Moyo) came in and did a good job.

“Whoever comes in for Hakeem knows they will need to put a shift in and work hard like Hakeem’s been doing.

“He is suspended for a reason, because he puts himself in a position to make tackles and headers and puts his body on the line. Whoever comes in will need to replicate that.

“At this minute in time we have David and Tunde Owolabi as our two main strikers. It is an opportunity for them because we can’t get anybody in until the window opens.”

Owolabi has only made two starts and three substitute appearances since joining from FC United of Manchester but Rice is satisfied with the 25-year-old’s progress.

“It’s been a massive step up and it’s been a massive learning curve for him,” Rice said.

“To be fair to the lad, he has come from an environment where he scored 35-36 goals last season and was playing every week and became an automatic choice.

“He has come here and found it difficult, with different tempo, different style of game, the level he is playing at. But he is slowly but surely getting there.

“He is roughly where I thought he would be, if I’m honest. I didn’t think he would come and be a starter and force his way into the team before January.

“But he has shown in the last couple of games coming off the bench and he’s shown in a couple of bounce games that we’ve had that he is improving and he is understanding what he needs to do to be part of the first team.”

Accies have missed the creativity of Templeton and Smith but former Hartlepool winger Nathan Thomas came off the bench to good effect against Killie.

Rice said: “He’s a good player, a game-changer.  He’s one of these boys that wants to get on the ball and go at defenders and the big thing about him is he’s got an end product.

“There’s a lot of players that can get you up the pitch but there’s no end product. He’s got an end product but we need to get him fit to make sure he does himself justice on the pitch. If we can do that, then he’s an asset to us.”