Dundee 2 - 1 Morton

Dundee 2 - Palenik (2), Sturm (74)
Morton 1 - Graham (42)

Att - 3,952

Morton were unlucky to lose this match after an excellent second half performance but a Chris Templeman miss proved to be a pivotal moment.

Our injury situation enforced a series of changes for this match. Dean Keenan's role as a defensive midfielder was filled by Jay Shields. Kevin Finlayson came in for Michael Gardyne and Brian Graham replaced flu stricken Iain Russell. We started with a a very strange 4-5-1 formation. The usual defence but with Kevin Finlayson, Jay Shields and Jim McAlister in the centre of midfield with Graham and Stevenson on the left and right wings respectively and Templeman up front himself. Kevin Finlayson tucked in one on the right was particularly perplexing. However our terrible start led to a quick change of thought by Jim McInally. Brian Graham was pushed up front to partner Templeman, Stevenson moved to the left wing with Finlayson now on the right.

Dundee took the lead after only 2 minutes in what can only be described as a comedy of errors. Daquin and McDonald combined on the left and Morton attempted to defend the situation as a Boys Brigade team would ( that's probably offensive to a BB team) as Jay Shields, Peter Weatherson and Kevin Finlayson all ran out to confront McDonald who slipped a lovely ball between the three to Freddy Daquin who was inexplicably unmarked while three players were at McDonald. Daquin clipped a cross in to the near post where Czech defender Milan Palenik arrived totally unmarked ( a recurring theme where our defence is concerned) to reach out a leg to knock it past Lee Robinson - who had completely misjudged the situation - and then ram home on the line.

Our first half performance was terrible. The defence were all over the place and the midfield were being taught a lesson by Kevin McDonald. These defensive frailties were evident shortly after Dundee's opener. A flick on by the unmarked (recurring theme) Zemlik - who continued his persistent fouling seen against Celtic in midweek - was not dealt with by Ryan Harding who stumbled clumsily and fell allowing Bob Davidson a one-one-one chance but luckily for us he elected to volley over from just inside the box.

Our equaliser was a travesty, a total injustice, an unfair reflection of the game but you didn't hear any Morton fans complaing when Brian Graham curled a stunning left foot effort into the postage stamp top corner. The finish topped off a flowing move that Graham himself started off with a flick on. Stevenson picked the ball up and played in Jim McAlister with a great ball through MacKenzie's legs, Jim then turned and laid the ball off for Graham to shoot and score.

Early in the second half we had a free kick in a dangerous position. After last weeks thunderbolt you'd think Stevenson would try his luck again but Peter Weatherson decided to take it and curled over. I've included a video of the free kick below:

Our second half performance was much improved we were a threat going forward and Jay Shields was almost controlling the game in centre midfield. He was playing all the right passes, keeping it simple but usuing the ball effectively. So it was a doubly cruel blow when Dundee scored their winner against the run of play and through Jani Sturm - the Slovenian striker who rejected Morton earlier in the season. Neat link up play set Gavin Swankie away down the left, he confronted Peter Weatherson and skipped by Peter's poor attempt to tackle to race to the bye line. From there Swankie clipped a great ball to the back post for the unmarked Scott Robertson to crash a header against the crossbar. Sturm was the quickest to react as he bundled home what proved to be the winner. If I were a Dundee fan I'd be calling for Sturm to start ahead of Jan Zemlik. Zemlik is a human battering ram but that's about all he's got in his locker. You can tell from his movement and ability to snap up chances that Sturm could go on to score a lot of goals in this division if given the chance.

It could've all been so different if Chris Templeman had converted a great chance at 1-1. Kevin Finlayson, who had a fine second half, skipped past the highly rated left back Dixon before swinging over an amazing inch perfect cross (no honestly) for Templeman who was arriving at the back post. It seemed to be a simple diving header to give us the lead but the big striker somehow managed to glance the ball over the cross bar. A critical miss that changed the game and one that any striker worth their salt has to be putting away. I like Templeman but this sort of finishing is unacceptable.

All in all a very good performance in the second half meant we probably deserved to walk away with a point but terrible defending and a shocking miss meant that we travelled back with nothing to show for it. If we continue to defend like this leaving away venues with no points will be as much of a recurring theme as unmarked Dundee players were in this match.

Morton (4-5-1, quickly changed to 4-4-2):

1. Robinson - 5
2. Weatherson - 5
3. Walker - 6
4. Harding - 4 (12. Linn - 79 mins)
5. Greacen - 6
6. Shields - 8
7. Finlayson - 7
8. Stevenson - 7
9. Templeman - 6
10. Graham - 7
11. McAlister - 8

Subs Not Used:

14. McAnespie
15. McLaughlin
16. McKellar
20. McGurn

Booked: Weatherson, Shields, Finlayson.

Dundee: Samson, Griffin, MacKenzie, Palenik, Dixon, Daquin, McDonald (McHale 80), Robertson, Swankie, Davidson (Lyle 46), Zemlik (Sturm 65). Subs Not Used: White, Rae

My man of the match: Jay Shields

Sponsors man of the match:

Matchday Programme (Click to enlarge)

Watch the goals and a selection of highlights here: http://www.thedees.co.uk/downloads/interactive/morton_001.mov


Dundee v Morton Preview

Tomorrow Morton travel to Dundee for the second time this season. In that CIS cup tie we were beaten 2-0 (match report - http://greenockmortonfc.blogspot.com/2007/08/dundee-2-0-morton.html).

This match - a league encounter rather than the cup - should prove to be as difficult as the earlier fixture. Not only are Dundee a decent team, as shown in their battling performance against Celtic in midweek, but Morton have a crippling injury list exacerbated by last Saturday's tussle with a bruising St. Johnstone side.

In today's Greenock Telegraph Roger Graham quotes Jim McInally as saying: “Both Michael [Gardyne] and Dean [Keenan] must be rated very doubtful. Iain [Russell] has been sick and it looks as if it might be flu. We’ll need to play it by ear.” Therefore Russell, Keenan, and Gardyne can be added to a list that already includes David MacGregor, Kieran McAnespie, Chris Millar and although they have both recently featured on the substitutes bench, Scott McLaughlin and David McGurn. Neither are match fit.

Ludovic Roy is out for Dundee while defender David Worrell is doubtful.

For me Dundee's key men are the central midfield pairing of Kevin McDonald and Scott Robertson (pictured). Robertson was particularly impressive when he played against us in August while McDonald was a stand out against Celtic the other night. This match could be won and lost in the midfield and I suspect this could be our downfall.

My Prediction: Dundee 2 - 1 Morton

Tele' match preview: http://www.greenocktelegraph.co.uk/article.php?sec=2&id=15727

BBC team news: http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/scot_div_1/7017208.stm


Roger Graham On Andy McLaren

The back page of today's Greenock Telegraph is dominated by an interesting opinion piece by Roger Graham. The topic is Andy McLaren (pictured - playing for Scotland) and his Morton departure.

The full article can be read on the Tele' website so instead of analysing the full article I'll just pick out two comments I found very interesting.

The first was a comment that Roger Graham himself knew that "at times Morton Football Club bent over backwards to accomodate a man who, in his own autobiography's title, is a 'tormented' soul". He also goes on to say Morton were "always prepared to act sympathetically." I'd say these two comments point to the fact that it was definitely time to get rid of McLaren. The club shouldn't need to bend over backwards to accomodate any player especially a guy in his 30s. His behaviour on the pitch was erratic and that combined with his performances meant it was time to go irrespective of whether the decision was taken by McInally as McLaren claims or as a mutual decision.

The second comments regards the reason behind McLaren's departure. Graham makes a very good point when he points out that McLaren wasn't complaining about leaving Morton at the time he left. In fact McLaren was quoted in the Greenock Telegraph on the 26th of May 2006 as saying: "I had a year's contract at Morton. The option was there to renew it if I played a certain amount of games, which I did, but I don't want to exercise that option. I don't feel another season in the Second Division is right for me at this stage in my career." It would seem that Andy has changed his mind about why he left Morton.



McLaren Stays Silent On Claims

In today's Greenock Telegraph Chris Fitzgerald reveals that he attempted to talk to Andy McLaren regarding his claim that Morton still owe him £30,000. However McLaren refused to comment because he is legally bound by his agreement with the Sunday Mail to serialise extracts from his book.

However McLaren is quoted as saying: "Once my book comes out, I'll be in a better position to discuss the matter."

The Evening Times also had a small snippet on McLaren's claims. The piece titled 'Ton owe McLaren Zilch' has no by line and simply says: "MORTON have dismissed claims in a new book by Andy McLaren that they owe the ex-Kilmarnock and Dundee United winger £30,000 in unpaid wages."


St. Johnstone In The Semis

St. Andrew's first aid volunteers beware, Morton will face St. Johnstone at Cappielow in the Challenge Cup semi-final.

Tonight St. Johnstone ran out convincing 4-1 winners against 2nd division side Brechin City.

The semi-final will be played on Tuesday the 2nd of October.


Gardyne's Ankle Only Swollen

There were fears that Michael Gardyne (pictured) had broken his ankle as a result of a crunching tackle in Saturday's bruising encounter with St. Johnstone.

An article by Roger Graham in today's Greenock Telegraph reveals that after an X-ray it was discovered that Gardyne's ankle was badly bruised and swollen rather than broken.

He is expected to be out for a couple of weeks.

Alex Walker and Dean Keenan were also injured in the match with concussion and a bruised ankle respectively but both are expected to be available for next Saturday's trip to Dundee.


Andy McLaren - Morton's Reply

Today on http://www.gmfc.net/ Morton have posted a Club Comment in reply to allegations made by Andy McLaren in the Sunday Mail.

The club reply acknowledges McLaren's claim that he told the management of personal problems he was having / has had. However, the club statement also says that they arranged qualified help for McLaren but after a few weeks it became clear that Andy's problems were becoming 'more complex'. Where the club and McLaren differ is that the club say McLaren 'amicably' agreed to leave at the end of season 2005-06. Whereas McLaren claims Jim McInally phoned him and said "Hi Andy. Listen, we're letting you go, We think it's time for you to move on. It's time for a parting of the ways and I'm not going to change my mind." This point is crucial in determining whether the club owe Andy £30,000 or not.

The club's statment goes on to point out that they co-operated with the SFL and SPFA in regards to Andy's claim but after sending out the copies of all necessary documents and explaining the situation they have not heard anything regarding the matter since.

Personally I think McLaren must not have a case because if he did I suspect the SPFA would have backed him to the hilt but as Andy himself admits the SPFA never kept in touch with him leading him to say: "I made several attempts to keep in touch with the SPFA but it appeared to be a one-way street. I've no idea if they are still fighting my case or if they stuck my file in an old cardboard box in a broom cupboard. However I wont give up the fight."

The club finished by wishing Andy all the best for the future.

Read the statement here: http://www.gmfc.net/club-news/news-view.asp?id=227

Tele' reporter Russell Steele also talked to Gillian Donaldson about McLaren's claims: http://www.greenocktelegraph.co.uk/article.php?sec=1&id=15571


Andy McLaren Criticises Morton

I've just received a text from a friend who says that Andy McLaren has criticised Morton in tomorrow's Sunday Mail. The criticism appears in the first part of the serialisation of McLaren's autobiography Tormented.

I haven't seen the extract yet but the text I received says: "Inside back page [of the Sunday Mail] is all about a meeting with Jim [McInally]. He told him he'd been abused as a kid and got punted days later. He says the club owe him 30 grand."

McLaren's book is ghost written by Mark Guidi who is chief sportswriter at the Sunday Mail. The book is published by Mainstream Publishing and is due to be released in October sometime, rrp £9.99.

Mainstream's website includes the following blurb on Tormented:

"Andy McLaren is a professional footballer with an extraordinary story to tell. While playing for Reading in 2000, he failed a random drugs test and was immediately banned from football. He was forced to admit to being an alcoholic and cocaine abuser, and checked in to the Priory Clinic in Glasgow. After working hard to overcome his addictions, he resurrected his career with Kilmarnock later the same year and gained his first national cap when Scotland played Poland in 2001. But what had made him resort to drink and drugs?

In Tormented, McLaren reveals how he discovered through psychoanalysis that he had been a victim of abuse in childhood, and how this had led him down the path of alcohol and drug abuse. He documents his difficult journey to sobriety, during which he contemplated suicide, and explains how he coped with the shocking revelations from his past.

Tormented is a powerful, honest tale of a man whose career never hit the heights that his talents merited. It is the most revealing book written by any footballer, and his remarkable life story, laced with hope and humour, will be an inspiration to men and women in every walk of life."

*UPDATE* Read the article here: http://www.sundaymail.co.uk/sport/football/tm_headline=lowest-of-the-low%26method=full%26objectid=19833726%26siteid=64736-name_page.html

Scroll down the books for the information on McLaren's book: http://www.mainstreampublishing.com/private/forthcoming_titles_sport.html

Morton 2 - 2 St. Johnstone

Morton 2 - Russell (15), Stevenson (63)
St. Johnstone 2 - Jackson (20), Sheerin (pen 57)

Att - 2,876

A superb Jamie Stevenson free kick rescued a point in this bruising encounter at Cappielow.
Morton took the lead in the 15th minute. Iain Russell controlled a pass dummied by Templeman and steadied himself before side footing high past Alan Main. It's good to see Russell open his account in a Morton jersey, hopefully this goal will take a great weight off his shoulders.

The Saints equalised 5 minutes later when ex-Morton hero Derek McInnes played a superb pass in behind Alex Walker at left back. Right back Gary Irvine cut in from the right hand side and drilled a ball across goal for Jackson to tap in at the far post.

This match showcased the difference between 1st division and 2nd division football. Although not necessarily dirty St. Johnstone were extremely hard in all their challenges resulting in Morton players dropping like flies all over the pitch. Both Dean Keenan and Michael Gardyne had to be replaced in the first half by Shields and Finlayson respectively. Although I have said the tackles were hard rather than dirty I thought the tackle on Michael Garydne was dirty. The tackle seemed to be over the ball and the players studs crunched into Gardyne's ankle. Amazingly -well not so amazingly when you consider referee Somers' performance was disgraceful- the foul went St. Johnstone's way. I think Morton have to adapt to this more physical environment or they will be bullied in the vast majority of matches this season. Jim McInally must address this situation by bringing in some 'harder' players in the January transfer window. We need more Jay Shields and less Chris Millars.

Owen Coyle's side took the lead for the first time in the match when penalty expert Paul Sheerin dispatched his spot kick after both Greacen and McAlister seemed to combine to foul Jackson in the box - a stonewaller from where I was standing.

Morton equalised when Jamie Stevenson fired a superb 35 yard free kick past the desparing dive of Alan Main. I didn't notice a deflection myself but a pal and Roger Graham in today's Tele' both said that the ball took a slight deflection off of Stanic's boot so I'll take their word for it. Stevenson seemed to really come onto a game after this goal and almost scored a second but Main pulled off a good save.

Both teams had chances to win it at the end. First Andy Jackson appeared to be fouled by Lee Robinson as he attempted to round the keeper after the Rangers loanee made a mistake but the referee waved play on. The final chance fell to Russell who controlled the ball in the box and swivelled brilliant only to fire over with a pretty poor finish.

A point a piece was a fair result and all Morton fans seemed to be happy with the team's performance but I really think we need to toughen up or it could be our undoing in an unforgiving league.

Morton (4-4-2):

1. Robinson - 6
2. Weatherson - 6
3. Walker - 6 (12. Linn - 85 mins)
4. Harding - 5
5. Greacen - 6
6. Keenan - 4 (14. Shields - 28 mins - 7)
7. Gardyne - 6 (15. Finlayson - 34 mins - 6)
8. Stevenson - 8
9. Templeman - 7
10. Russell - 7
11. McAlister - 6

Subs Not Used:

16. McLaughlin
20. McGurn

Booked: Russell

St Johnstone: Main, Irvine, Anderson, Rutkiewicz, McManus, Stanic (McLaren 84), Quinn (Moon 62), McInnes (Weatherston 69), Sheerin, Jackson, Deuchar. Subs Not Used: Stewart, Cuthbert.

My man of the match: Jamie Stevenson

Sponsors man of the match: Jamie Stevenson

Matchday Programme (Click to enlarge)

Tele' match report by Roger Graham: http://www.greenocktelegraph.co.uk/article.php?sec=2&id=15561

Scotland On Sunday match report: http://scotlandonsunday.scotsman.com/football.cfm?id=1521392007

McInally Pissed Off At Female Morton Fans

A Daily Record 'exclusive' by Gordon Parks is quite possibly the worst Morton related story I've ever read.

Parks' 'exclusive' - brought to my attention by a post on the Morton site as I haven't bought the Record for a long time- reveals that the Morton team were almost locked out of their dressing before the East Stirling match. The narrowly averted tragedy was caused by a female fan requesting to use the toilet in the dressing room only for a queue to develop behind her.

McInally said: "It didn't stop us from getting the players back in time to go through their final preparations but I might have to think twice if I'm asked again."

Coakley Joins Alloa On Loan

Adam 'Coakers' Coakley (pictured - coming on as a sub [No. 16] against East Stirling) has joined Alloa Athletic on a temporary loan deal.

The story appears on http://www.gmfc.net/ and says that Coakley will be with Alloa until the end of October. His contract with Morton expires in January.

Jim McInally is quoted as saying: "We hope this will give Adam more first team experience than we are able to at the moment."

I feel sorry for Coakley but he clearly isn't up to it at 1st division level. Personally I don't even think he is good enough for senior football and wont make any impression at Alloa. I'm pretty sure his contract at Morton wont be renewed.


August Player Of The Month

Dean Keenan (pictured - with dodgy tache) has been voted Morton's star man for August by readers of this blog.

Keenan received 43% of the vote. He received 13 votes from a (disappointing) total of 30 votes.

His closest rival was Lee Robinson with 16% of the votes (5/30).

The full results were:

1) Dean Keenan - 43% (13/30)
2) Lee Robinson - 16% (5/30)
3) Jim McAlister - 13% (4/30) - Jim got my vote.
4) Peter Weatherson / Jay Shields - 10% (3/20)
5) Kieran McAnespie / Alex Walker - 3% (1/30)

St. Johnstone or Brechin City

The draw for the Challenge Cup Semi-Final was made at Hampden today.We have been drawn to play the winner of the St. Johnstone v Brechin City quarter-final which was postponed on Tuesday after a lighting failure led to the police deciding the match was unsafe for the public. That match will now be played next Tuesday.

The match will be played at Cappielow on either Tuesday the 2nd or Wednesday the 3rd of October.

The other semi-final sees Alex Williams' Ayr United travel to East End Park to play Dunfermline.



Challenge Cup Semi-Final Draw

The draw for the Semi-Finals of the Challenge Cup will take place at 2.30pm on Thursday 20th September (tomorrow) at Hampden Park.

The ties are scheduled to be played on either Tuesday, 2nd or Wednesday, 3rd of October. We usually play on the Tuesday.

The teams to be entered into the hat are : Morton, Ayr United, St. Johnstone OR Brechin City and Dunfermline.

The result of the draw will be posted on the SFL website shortly after 2.30pm on Thursday.


East Stirlingshire 0 - 4 Morton

East Stirlingshire 0
Morton 4 - Templeman (49, 82), Moffat (61 o.g.), Linn (83)

Att - 488

Tonight Morton made it three Challenge Cup semi-finals in a row after a convincing second half showing at Firs Park.

McInally announced his team for this match earlier today. The significant changes were Alex Walker's inclusion in place of Jay Shields and a return to 4-4-2 with Peter Weatherson at right back. Brian Graham came in for Kevin Finlayson and played left midfield while Jamie Stevenson moved out to occupy Finlayson's position on the right hand side and Jim McAlister moved into the centre. Chris Templeman played in place of Iain Russell who was cup tied.

The first half wasn't much of a spectacle as both teams huffed and puffed without creating much. Shire played some nice football down the left without really threatening. Morton's best attempts came from a series of long range efforts by Michael Gardyne. We did have a legitimate claim for a penalty turned down as an East Stirling defender seemed to block a header back across goal with his hand. Below is a video of the penalty claim, the quality isn't great but I think you can just about make out the incident.

The game came to life in the second half as Morton turned the screw on their third division opponents. Chris Templeman opened the scoring when he stooped to nod in at the back post after an excellent Jamie Stevenson free kick from the right hand side of the pitch. I've also included a video of this goal (below) again the video quality isn't the best but I think you can just about make it out. Thanks to Harry Thompson for the videos.

We doubled our advantage in the 60th minute. An excellent Jamie Stevenson through ball sent Peter Weatherson down the right wing and his measured cross was met by Brian Graham at the front post. Graham appeared to have hooked the ball across goal and into the far corner for his second goal in this season's competitition but the BBC website has the goal down as an own goal by Shire defender Gordon Moffat.

Jamie Stevenson was having a major impact on the second half and continued to hurt East Stirling when he sent substitute Bobby Linn racing clear with a superb incisive pass that disected the East Stirling defence. Linn didn't connect properly with his shot but the ball slid under Hill to make the score 3-0.

Chris Templeman completed the scoring with another back post header - this time from a Jim McAlister cross. Jim turned sharply on the edge of the box, drove to the bye line and stood up a perfect cross for Templeman to nod home.

The second half performance was a big improvement on the first. Most pleasing for me were Jamie Stevenson's impact on the game and Chris Templeman's performance and goals. Stevenson played a major part in three of the goals, we need to see more of this incisive play from Jamie this season as it is obvious he is capable of much more than he has produced in a Morton jersey up until now. Chris Templeman came in and linked up play and held the ball expertly. It was also good to see him score two goals with his head. Surely he will retain his place in the first team now. Michael Gardyne was lively and appears to want to shoot from everywhere. Darren Hill pulled off an outstanding save from a Gardyne volley late in the game -his performane was another plus point.

This match was a welcome relief from the league struggle and here's hoping we can get to the final this time but I don't think anyone should be fooled by this result. We still have problems and a 4-0 win against a 3rd division team doesn't mean everything is rosy again.

A home tie in the next round please.

Morton (4-4-2):

1. Robinson - 7
2. Weatherson - 7 (14. Shields - 89 mins)
3. Walker - 6
4. Harding - 6
5. Greacen - 7
6. Keenan - 6
7. Graham - 6 (12. Linn - 75 mins)
8. Stevenson - 7
9. Templeman - 9 (16. Coakley - 89 mins)
10. Gardyne - 7
11. McAlister - 7

Subs Not Used:

15. Finlayson
17. McKellar

East Stirlingshire: Hill, Moffat, Kevin McBride, King, Thywissen, Kelly, Craig Donaldson, Oates (Carr 80), Savage, Simpson (Struthers 60), Ure (Doyle 71). Subs Not Used: Upton, Greg Mitchell

My man of the match : Chris Templeman

Matchday Programme (Click to enlarge)

Match Ticket (Click to enlarge)

Chris Fitzgerald's Tele' match report, one which I really enjoyed as I prefer match reports with a bit of character rather than a strict blow by blow account of the game: http://www.greenocktelegraph.co.uk/article.php?sec=2&id=15420



East Stirling v Morton Preview

Jim McInally has taken the strange decision to announce his starting XI in advance of tonight's Challenge Cup Quarter-Final at Firs Park.

According to Roger Graham in today's Greenock Telegraph McInally will go with:

.................................Robinson .......................

Weatherson..... Greacen ........... Harding ........ Walker

Stevenson ...... Keenan .......... McAlister ........ Graham

................................................. Gardyne ..............

.....................Templeman ..................................

Alex Walker returns from injury while Templeman comes in for the cup-tied Iain Russell. McInally says that he is playing Jamie Stevenson on the right because he isn't finding any room in the centre of midfield and he can deliver good crosses from the wing. He has decided to go with Brian Graham on the left side of midfield as he likes to get shots in and McInally believes this is something we need at the moment.

Livingston 4 - 0 Morton

Livingston 4 - Fox (9), Dorrans (41, 42), MacKay (67 pen)
Morton 0

Att - 2,500

After Saturday's match I made a conscious decision to wait a few days before I wrote anything about this match to give me time to calm down and stop me from writing a knee jerk reaction to the result. However I find that even after nearly three days I still feel the same.

Due to the injury problems we are experiencing at present Jim McInally decided to go with a 3-5-2 formation - his first mistake. The back three consisted of Greacen, Harding and Weatherson. Jay Shields and Dean Keenan played as a defensive midfield pairing with Jamie Stevenson playing in front of them. Kevin Finlayson and Jim McAlister occupied the wings which left Iain Russell up front himself with Michael Gardyne free to float about just off of Russell. The decision to leave Templeman on the sidelines was McInally's second error and one I think that should draw his judgement into question. Iain Russell is not the type of striker who can play a loan striker role - I know he didn't strictly play as a lone striker but Gardyne was supporting from in behind rather than partnering him up front. Templeman made a positive impact against Queen of the South and in my opinion he deserved to start the match even without taking the tactical implications of leaving him out into question.

Livi' took an early lead when Fox let fly with a rocket shot from the edge of the box that flew past Robinson in goal. A particularly disappointing goal to concede considering we had set up with two defensive midfielders yet Fox had far too much space and time to get his shot away.

At the other end Iain Russell had a goal disallowed for offside. Amazingly an almost identical chance fell to him later in the half but instead of tucking it away like his disallowed effort he somehow contrived to drag his effort wide. Up until this point I wouldn't say we were overly poor but we seemed to lack any sort of game plan. Particularly when attempting to go forward. As so often seems to be the case the defence were resorting to long balls which are even worse when you are aiming them at Iain Russell and not Chris Templeman.

The next few moments summed up why Ryan Harding and Stewart Greacen need replaced. The two 'natural' centre backs along with makeshift defender Peter Weatherson were all over the place as Graham Dorrans tapped home at the back post and then volleyed through Robinson's legs 30 seconds later after being allowed to ghost into the box unmarked. It was a disastrous two minute spell. Personally I thought it was obvious the three at the back was not working and I expected McInally to change this to sort out the problems but he didn't, he was slow to react and it cost us. He eventually changed the system at half time but by then it was too late. Peter Weatherson was having a terrible game at the back. He's not as culpable as the other two as they are supposed to be playing in their preferred positions but even then Peter has looked out of sorts for a while now. It's possible and probable that his mind is (understandably) focused on his daughter who has been unwell. If our squad wasn't so threadbare I'd suggest it would be beneficial to leave Weatherson out for a while.

We started the second half with Chris Templeman on for Kevin Finlayson and he made an immediate impact as he crashed a long range effort off of the inside off the post but to Livingston's relief it rebounded to safety. This effort seemed to bring our team to life and we put a lot of pressure on Livingston for the first 10 - 15 minutes of the second half but giant Livi keeper Mariusz Liberda was equal to anything we threw at him as he pulled off a couple of excellent saves

Unfortunately Jim McAlister - a player who always gives everything for the cause and seems to be one of the only players who has a genuine affection for the club and the fans (see the picture of him climbing the stands to retrieve the ball - Jamie Stevenson take note)- gave away a penalty by tripping Snodgrass in the box. Dave MacKay put Robinson the wrong way from the spot.

When Jim McInally was appointed manager I was really impressed for the first 6 months to a year but over time I began to have concerns about some of his tactics and signings. I put that down to him being new to management and learning lessons and up until now I've always tried to remain patient and try not to be overly critical or scathing but I think Saturday was the day that I decided that he is not the man to take Morton forward - something a lot of people have been arguing for a long time but for me some fans have went about it the wrong way, almost turning it into a hate campaign rather than simply voicing concerns about his ability to manage.

On Saturday too many things concerned me: I didn't agree with 3 at the back from the off I thought that was a mistake and this became more concerning when the match started and Dorrans and Snodgrass were operating on the wings. I fully expected the manager to go to 4 at the back as we were looking a bit fragile defensively but he stuck with the three and this decision eventually led to two quick fire goals. The decision to leave Templeman out also perplexed me as did the decision to play both Keenan and Shields as defensive midfielders.

Tactics aside our squad is also a cause for concern. We don't have a natural left back. We eventually signed a right back but the manager plays him in midfield, we have two central defenders both of whom look capable at times but more often than not are liabilities but we don't even have anyone to provide them with competition for their places. We have no leaders on the park and we continue to ignore the midfield problem. The manager even acknowledged this when he identified the need for a strong midfielder who could lead the team only to inexplicably change his mind and decide David MacGregor could do that job.

To top it all off McInally was quoted after the game as saying "But to be honest I can't criticise the players for their effort. As always it was one hundred per cent" which leads me to the conclusion that if the players weren't at fault for a dismal 4-0 capitulation (to the team who were bottom of the league and who hadn't won a league game so far this season) as they had given it their all it must've been our tactics and team selection that were to blame for defeat and the responsibilty for those things lies squarely with you Jim.

Morton (3-5-2):

1. Robinson - 7
2. Shields - 6
3. Weatherson - 4
4. Harding - 4
5. Greacen - 5
6. Keenan - 6
7. Finlayson - 4 (12. Templeman - 46 mins)
8. Stevenson - 5 (15. Graham - 71 mins)
9. Russell - 6
10. Gardyne - 7
11. McAlister - 7

Subs Not Used:

14. Linn
16. Coakley
17. McKellar

Booked: Shields

Livingston: Liberda, Mitchell, Dermot McCaffrey, MacKay, Tinkler, Fox, Dorrans (Weir 80), Kennedy, Craig (Noubissie 57), Pesir (Griffiths 83), Snodgrass. Subs Not Used: James, Stewart.

My man of the match : Graham Dorrans

Sponsors man of the match : Graham Dorrans

Matchday Programme (Click to enlarge)

Tele' match report : http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/scot_div_1/6990278.stm


Morton Shares Available To Buy

In an update on the 'From the Office of the Chairman 'section of the www.gmfc.net website chairman Douglas Rae has posted to say that an unnamed shareholder has decided to sell off shares to any fan willing to buy them.

The shares will cost 65p for each 25p share. The minimum quantity available to buy is 100 shares which works out at £65 in total.

The shares are for sale on a first come, first serve basis so anyone who is interested should contact Mary Davidson (secretary) as soon as possible.


Millar Added To Injury List

Chris Millar has been added to an ever expanding injury list. He joins Scott McLaughlin, David MacGregor, Alex Walker and Kieran McAnespie on the sidelines.

In the same Greenock Telegraph article Roger Graham reveals that McInally intends to play Jay Shields in the centre of midfield. I assume that would mean Peter Weatherson at right back with Dean Keenan in at left back but I could easily be wrong.


Injury Updates - Updates!

Roger Graham has followed up his article on the injury situation at Cappielow from Tuesday's Greenock Telegraph with further news today.

Alex Walker (pictured) is definitely out for Saturday's trip to Livingston. His ankle injury flared up again after training on Tuesday.

Kieran McAnespie is described as 'very doubtful'. He has experiened a recurrence of a calf problem from earlier in the season. However this time it is only a strain - earlier in the season it 'popped out' according to Jim McInally.

Ryan Harding trained on Tuesday and it looks likely he will be fit to play on Saturday.

The absence of Walker, McAnespie and MacGregor gives McInally big selection problems as he has no one to play left back. This could mean a change in formation or a player filling in who has no experience in that position. With Harding returning I'd play Jay Shields at right back and move the ever adaptable Peter Weatherson to left back.

France 0 - 1 Scotland

This is a Morton blog and so I really only want to include Morton related news so thank you Paul Hartley for giving me the excuse to get this match a mention here.

In what I can only describe as the best Scotland performance (well result really) I've seen in my life time Scotland beat World Cup runners up France 1-0 to go top of group B tonight.

James McFadden scored a stunning long range effort to cap a heroic performance by a Scotland team including ex-Morton loanee Paul Hartley (pictured celebrating with James McFadden after his goal tonight).

Hartley spent a month on loan at Cappielow from Hibs in season 1999-2000. He played 3 times scoring one goal - a free kick against St. Mirren at Love Street on Monday the 3rd of January 2000. His other appearances were in a 1-0 win against Raith Rovers at Cappielow on the 27th of December 1999 and in a 6-2 defeat away to Inverness Caledonian Thistle on Saturday the 8th of January 2000.

Hartley is a bit of a cult hero at Cappielow and not just because of his loan spell. He is despised by St. Mirren fans dating back to an incident at Love Street in his Hamilton Accies days and any enemy of St. Mirren is a friend of ours. Hartley was also in the Morton end when we played St. Mirren in the Challenge cup semi-final twos seasons ago. Immediately prior to the game Hartley was a studio guest on a radio programme. He informed the presenter he had to leave the studio as he was going to Morton v St. Mirren. The presenter asked him who he was going to support and he replied "Morton of course". After spotting him in the Morton end of the North Bank the Ton support treated him to a rendition of 'there's only one Paul Hartley'.

Since those days at Cappielow Hartley's career has come a long way. He now plays for Celtic after spells at St. Johnstone and Hearts and tonight he won his 16th cap for Scotland, he has scored one goal - against Slovenia in a 3-0 win in 2005.

Hartley played am important part in tonight's win. I know his time as a Morton player wasn't the longest or most significant but I still think it's great to see someone who I've seen play in a Morton jersey play a part in one of Scotland's greatest ever results.

You can listen to an after match interview from tonight's match with Hartley here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/internationals/6986781.stm


Injury Updates

In today's Greenock Telegraph Roger Graham updates us on the injury situation at Cappielow.

Scott McLaughlin (broken wrist): Scott (pictured) has returned to full training and was involved in physical contact training for the first time yesterday. He just needs to regain match sharpness.

Alex Walker (ankle): Alex is still feeling pain in his ankle but is hopeful of being fit for Saturday.

Ryan Harding (back): Ryan has a stiff back but like Alex Walker he is hopeful of recovering in time to play against Livingston on Saturday.

David McGurn (knee tendon): Jim McInally planned to play David against Peterhead but he was ruled out by a knee tendon problem. There is no indication when he will return to action.

David MacGregor (knee): All Jim said about David was that "There has been a wee bit of improvement."


East Stirling Match All Ticket

East Stirling have announced that the Challenge cup quarter-final against Morton will be all ticket. The police have made this decision because of the small number of turnstiles and the fact there is only one main exit gate.

According to the Scottish Football League Review Firs Park has a capacity of 781 (536 standing, 245 seated). The East Stirling website says that the capacity has been set at 750 for this match.

East Stirling secretary Les Thomson is quoted as saying: "We were not willing to move the game. We do have problems with access and exits and that is why the crowd limit has been set as it has. We have been told Morton will bring six supporters' buses to the game and we have to make provision for them too. Everything is in order to make sure the match goes ahead at Firs Park."
According to http://www.gmfc.net/ Morton will receive an allocation of 400 tickets.


Morton Missed Out On Dungannon Striker

The 'Top Secret' section of the News Of The World's regular Exposed column has a small story saying that we failed in a bid for Northern Irish Carnegie Premier Division side Dungannon Swifts' star striker Mark McAllister. The article believes we had a £50,000 bid knocked back. Dungannon boss Harry Fay said : "The timing was not right for him to leave the club." To read the story click the image (left) to enlarge.

My Girlfriend's Mum lives in Belfast with her partner who is a Glentoran supporter. When they come over he somtimes gives me a few programmes from matches he has been to. One of the most recent was a JJB Sports Irish Cup Semi-Final between Cliftonville and Dungannon Swifts in March this year. The programme has the following pen pic for McAllister :

The BBC website has a story that he had signed for Celtic but that he eventually knocked back the move. The BBC item also says he was recently called up to the Northern Irish under 21 squad.

The Belfast Telegraph also carries the story. The article by Malcolm Brodie says: "McAllister rejected an offer from Glasgow Celtic earlier this year after terms had been agreed between the clubs while Dungannon said: "No" to an offer from Morton last Thursday."


Good Chance of 'Three In A Row'

Morton manager Jim McInally appears confident that we can reach our third Challenge cup semi-final in three years.

McInally is quoted in the Evening Times as saying : "They [East Stirling] are full of confidence after a tremendous start to the season, but we have made the semis for the last two years and this gives us a good chance to make it three-in-a -row."

In the 2005/06 semi-final we were beaten 4-2 on penalties by St. Mirren - the match finished 0-0 after extra time. Last season we were taught a lesson by Clyde who beat us 3-1 at Broadwood.


East Stirling In The Challenge Cup

Today at Hampden we were drawn to play East Stirlingshire in the quarter finals of the Challenge Cup. The tie will be played at Firs Park, Falkirk on Tuesday the 18th of September according to East Stirling's official website. *UPDATE* Morton have also confirmed that this game will be played on the Tuesday night - the match will kick off at 7.45pm -http://www.gmfc.net/club-news/news-view.asp?id=218.

This tie, although away from home, is the best we could have hoped for. We missed the big hitters in Dunfermline and St. Johnstone and got the only 3rd division team in the draw. However Shire are not the pushovers they once were. They have scrapped their £10 per week wages and and returned to a wage structure more in keeping with other sides at 3rd division level. This has seen a marked up turn in their fortunes. At present they sit 2nd in Irn Bru League 3 on 12 points having won 4 of their first 5 games.

East Stirling are the easiest draw but will be no where near as easy as they would have been in the past few seasons.

Full draw :

St Johnstone v Brechin City
Ayr United v Partick Thistle
Airdrie United v Dunfermline Ath
East Stirlingshire v Morton

The Draw : http://www.scottishfootballleague.com/news.cfm?curpageid=945&newsid=2227


McInally Hails Gardyne Performance

The Evening Times online website carries an article by Bert Mitchell in which Jim McInally is full of praise for Michael Gardyne's performance last night.

McInally tips Gardyne to make a swift return to SPL football, he says : "Michael for me showed the quality in his locker that suggests he will make it back to the highest level in the Scottish game. I have absolutely no doubt that he [Gardyne] has what it takes to perform in the top flight and I am sure that he will be a very big player for us this season."

To read the rest of the article and what Jim McInally thought of Gardyne's and the team's performance click here : http://www.eveningtimes.co.uk/sport/display.var.1664888.0.0.php

Challenge Cup Draw

The draw for the Quarter finals of the Challenge cup will take place at 2.30pm on Thursday 6th September (tomorrow) at Hampden Park.

The ties are scheduled to be played on either Tuesday, 18th or Wednesday, 19th September. We usually play on the Tuesday.

The teams to be entered into the hat are : Morton, Airdrie United, Ayr United, Brechin City, East Stirlingshire, Partick Thistle, Ross County OR St. Johnstone and Clyde OR Dunfermline.


Peterhead 0 - 1 Morton

Peterhead 0
Morton 1 - McAlister (17)

Att - 650

The long journey north paid off as Morton progressed to the quarter finals of the Challenge Cup after a 1-0 win against former bogey team Peterhead.

Jay Shields returned from suspension and replaced Ryan Harding who Jim McInally revealed was carrying an injury. Shields slotted in at right back and Peter Weatherson moved in one to fill Harding's centrehalf berth. Jamie Stevenson came in for Chris Millar in cetral midfield and Michael Gardyne made his first competitive start in place of cup tied Iain Russell.

Peterhead started brightly and Lee Robinson pulled off two excellent saves early on. One, in particular, was extremely impressive. Robinson dived full stretch to grasp an angled header from close range that looked as if it was destined to go beyond the Morton keeper's dive and land in the back of the net. I'd actually written it off as a goal as soon as the Peterhead player's head connected with the ball.

We scored the only goal of the game when Michael Gardyne slipped a lovely angled ball through a gap in the defence and Jim McAlister cut in from the right wing to knock the ball round the keepers dive with his right foot. He didn't connect properly but it was still a decent finish.

New signing Michael Gardyne was inspirational. His first touch and control of the ball while running at speed are both superb and he used both effectively throughout the game. The first of two excellent Gardyne attemps on goal came when he burst forward from the half way line using a turn of pace to glide effortlessly past three Peterhead men and then unleash a powerful left footed effort arrowing for the top corner but the Polish keeper did very well to tip over. His second effort was a curling right foot effort that glanced off the top of the cross bar and over. Michael Gardyne was my man of the match (special mention must go to Dean Keenan who, as in recent matches, played very well in midfield). On this showing it would seem that Jim McInally has made a great signing here. No doubt my brothers (who told me he was excellent for Ross County last season) will be telling me how they told me he was brilliant in the morning.

Jim McAlister went close to grabbing a second goal when he drove down the left wing and cut in towards goal. He attempted to drill a ball across goal but the angle was a little bit tight and his effort cannoned back off the near post.

Peterhead had a decent penalty shout turned down as Stewart Greacen pulled his man in the box. If they did get the award it would have been a cruel blow as we deserved to progress to the next round after a decent performance.

To end any confusion David McGurn did not appear up front for Morton and Adam Coakley never came off the subs bench. The woman on the tannoy listed our substitute numbers as 12,13,14,15 and 16. However we never have a number 13, our sub goalkeeper uses number 20. So the second substitute listed (Chris Millar) was read out by the announcer as number 13 instead of 14 and every player afterwards was moved down one number.

I'll end my report the same way I did after the last Challenge Cup game. Home tie in the next round please.

Morton (4-4-2):

1. Robinson - 7
2. Shields - 7
3. McAnespie - 7
4. Weatherson - 5
5. Greacen - 6
6. Keenan - 8
7. Finlayson - 7
8. Stevenson - 5 (16. Graham - 71 mins)
9. Linn - 6 (14. Millar - 65 mins)
10. Gardyne - 9
11. McAlister - 7

Subs Not Used:

12. Templeman
15. Coakley
20. McGurn

Peterhead: Kula, Buchan, Mackay, Mann, MacDonald, Anderson, Hamish Munro (McKay), Cowie, Bavidge, Kozminski, Bagshaw (Donnie Munro).

Subs Not Used: Good, Donald, Will

My man of the match : Michael Gardyne

BBC Radio man of the match : Michael Gardyne

Sponsors man of the match :

Matchday Programme (Click to enlarge)

Russell Steele's Tele' match report : http://www.greenocktelegraph.co.uk/article.php?sec=2&id=12190


Peterhead v Morton Preview

Morton make the long journey north to face Peterhead in the 2nd round of the Challenge cup today. One bus has been booked to be shared between all of the main supporters clubs so the Morton support could be at it's lowest since a midweek outing at Inverness in the bad old days. Around 20 Morton fans attended that match after we travelled up in a mini bus from the Morton Supporters Club.

Morton are without McLaughlin and MacGregor as both are still out injured. Iain Russell is cup tied so I'd expect Michael Gardyne to come in for his first start for the club.

Peterhead are without Marino Keith, Stuart Soane and Steven Istead.

My Prediction : Peterhead 0 - 1 Morton



Peterhead v Morton On The Radio

The back page of today's Greenock Telegraph has a small news item that says that the Challenge Cup 2nd Round tie against Peterhead will be live on BBC Radio tomorrow night.

From the BBC website :


Tune in for Tuesday's Sportsound with Richard Gordon as the Challenge Cup takes centre stage.
Peterhead v Morton: Commentary from Scott Davie and Brian Irvine. Please note: this match is only available to listeners in the UK.


Listen Online by clicking this link and then the 'listen live' icon in the top right of the screen : http://www.bbc.co.uk/scotland/radioscotland/schedule/?tuesday


Morton 0 - 1 Queen Of The South

Morton 0
Queen Of The South 1 - O'Connor (47)

Att - 2,804

An experienced Queens team used all of their know-how to take home three points from their trip to Cappielow on Saturday.

Morton started with a front pairing of £40,000 new man Iain Russell and Bobby Linn. Michael Gardyne -our other new signing- started on the bench. Other changes from our last match included Kieran McAnespie in at left back for the injured Alex Walker, Kevin Finlayson in for Jay Shields who was suspended and as was already mentioned the lackadaisical Jamie Stevenson and Chris Templeman both dropped to the bench for the Linn / Russell front pairing.

Before the match had started I thought Jim McInally had made a couple of mistakes in his team selection. I don't think Chris Templeman deserved to be dropped. He also provides something none of our other strikers could in his ability to hold the ball up and link with those around him. I thought that Russell and Linn were too alike to play up front together. Also I don't believe Bobby Linn could have been in the right frame of mind to start this match after his recent terrible loss. He may have told the manager otherwise but I don't think that could have been the case and I don't make that remark lightly as I have been through the same thing myself but I do understand Linn's reasons for wanting to play.

We never really got going in this match until the last 15 minutes particularly because Neil MacFarlane and Stevie Tosh bossed the midfield. Personally I don't think it was a coincidence that we started to receive all the possession after Tosh and MacFarlane were substituted in the 69th and 76th minutes respectively. Both remained calm in possession and controlled the tempo of the game. One of these two would have been an absolutely ideal signing for us this season.

Our best efforts came from a Russell long range effort over the top and his hooked effort on the turn that ended up straight in the keeper's arms. In the second half Chris Templeman had a couple of efforts, one was blazed over and the others were weak trundling efforts. For all his good work Templeman really lets himself down with his finishing. He lacks accuracy and power and really needs to work on this element of his game. I'd also suggest that he works on his ability to attack headers in the box. He is now quite good at flicking the ball on or heading it down but he never uses his height to attack crosses and power headers in to the back of the net. Templeman did have a header cleared off the line and I might be be being over critical here but I thought if his heading ability was that bit better he would have scored.

However I would say that Templeman had a positive impact when he came on and I'd think that it should be him partnering either Russell or Linn up front from now on. Gardyne showed a couple of nice touches (cliche alert) but didn't have much impact. Russell worked hard but received little service. I'm hopeful that both will turn out to be good signings for Morton. Dean Keenan was probably Morton's man of the match as he battled for everything and his distribution was better than it has been recently. I don't want to sound harsh especially when you have guys like Chris Millar and Jamie Stevenson who are far more talented but not nearly as brave or willing to dig in but we really need a higher standard of midfielder if we are to compete in this division.

Back to the game. Inevitably the winning goal was scored by none other than ex-Morton man Sean O'Connor- who I really liked in his loan spell with us. Morton's defending was atrocious as O'Connor was allowed the space and time to pick his spot and then firmly place a low effort past Robinson. Queens nearly scored a second near the end but Robinson pulled off an excellent save by diving low to block Scotland U-20 midfielder Jamie Adam's finish.

Another home defeat at what had become fortress Cappielow in recent seasons. The young boys in this Morton team are going to have to learn quickly or we could be in for a lot more results like this this season.

Morton (4-4-2):

1. Robinson - 6
2. Keenan - 7
3. McAnespie - 7
4. Harding - 5
5. Greacen - 6
6. Finlayson - 6 (12. Stevenson - 78 mins)
7. Millar - 5 (15. Gardyne -58 mins - 5)
8. Linn - 5 (14. Templeman - 58 mins - 7)
9. Russell - 6
10. Weatherson - 6
11. McAlister - 6

Subs Not Used:

16. Graham
20. McGurn

Booked : Harding

Queen of the South: MacDonald, Paton, Thomson, Lauchlan, McQuilken, Burns, MacFarlane (Bingham 76), Scally, Tosh (Adams 68), Dobbie (Mole 68), O'Connor. Subs Not Used: Harris, Grindlay

My man of the match : Neil MacFarlane (Queen of the South)

Sponsors man of the match : Dean Keenan

Matchday Programme (Click to enlarge)