Inverness too good for Hamilton
Inverness left Hamilton in no doubt about the size of the task that awaits them upon their return to the top level of Scottish football with a deserved 2-0 victory at New Douglas Park.
The visitors looked sharper than their hosts for much of the game, and first-half goals from Billy McKay and Ryan Christie sealed their victory on the back of some slack play from the winners of last year's Championship play-off.
In wonderful conditions at New Douglas Park, both teams were eager to get the ball down and pass it on Hamilton's artificial surface.
However, Hamilton defender Ziggy Gordon dwelt on the ball to lose possession deep in his own half to present the game's first opportunity to Inverness. Danny Williams worked the ball inside to Christie who could only blaze over from a good position inside the area.
The visitors were not to be denied for long though, and unsurprisingly it was last season's top scorer McKay who bagged the opening goal after just 11 minutes.
Again, Hamilton were the architects of their own downfall, with a defensive slip by Mikey Devlin allowing McKay in on goal, making it to the ball just before goalkeeper Michael McGovern to lift it over him and into the net.
Inverness had another opportunity straight from kick-off as Hamilton were caught in possession once more. Stephen Hendrie was the culprit on this occasion as he lost the ball to James Vincent in the left-back position, the midfielder finding Christie who tested McGovern with a drive from the edge of the box.
Hamilton player-manager Alex Neil named himself in the starting line-up after Darian McKinnon had taken ill, and he had his side's first clear-cut scoring opportunity of the game after 20 minutes.
A free-kick from the left was whipped into the area by Danny Redmond, but Neil's glancing header ended well wide.
Soon afterwards Accies fell further behind, and it was a familiar tale as they again were punished for giving the ball away in a dangerous area.
This time it was Louis Longridge who was careless in possession, presenting the ball to Williams who was able to advance into the box and draw a fine save from McGovern. The ball squirmed loose and rolled towards the back post where Christie was on hand to tap home and double the Highlanders' advantage after 27 minutes.
Hamilton had a couple of chances to reduce their arrears before half-time, with a nice move involving Jason Scotland and Dougie Imrie allowing the latter to roll the ball across the penalty area to the on-rushing Redmond who sliced over. Longridge then tested Dean Brill with a curling effort from 20 yards that the 'keeper did well to tip round the post.
Hamilton looked sharper at the start of the second period, with only their final pass letting them down or an errant touch seeing some promising moves break down at the vital moment.
An enterprising run down the left by Hendrie which ended in a fine cross that found Imrie at the back post was the best opening of this spell of pressure, although the former Inverness man could only head straight at Brill.
Inverness were looking content to sit on their lead, however another Hamilton mistake gave McKay a decent chance to move them further ahead, Martin Canning missing a header to allow the striker to get goalside and test McGovern with a low drive.
Mickael Antoine-Curier came on to replace the tiring Scotland as Hamilton looked for a way back into the game, and the frontman had their best opening of the match so far within minutes of coming on, latching on to a pass from fellow substitute Ali Crawford to race in on Brill, who managed to block with his effort with his chest.
Inverness manager John Hughes then made some changes of his own, and one of the substitutes, Marley Watkins, almost had a similarly quick impact as he collected a ball from David Raven just inside the box and fired a right foot shot off the crossbar.
Hamilton were being picked off on the break as they tired towards the last 10 minutes, and a flowing move involving Aaron Doran and Christie allowed Watkins to go close again, McGovern saving with a fine stop high to his left.
In the end it was a comfortable victory for Inverness, and Hamilton may be in for a long season unless they can cut out some of the simple errors that cost them so dearly here.