Morton 0 - 0 Airdrie United

Morton 0 -
Airdrie United 0 -

Att: 1865

Morton couldn't break down a stubborn Airdrie side who came to Cappielow with the one intention - to frustrate and contain the home team in the search for a point.

The only change to the side that drew with Queen Of The South on Saturday was the return of Dominic Shimmin at Chris Smith's expense. Smith dropped out of the squad while Alex Walker retained his place on the bench. It's also interesting to note that Airdrie were without winger Joe Cardle - who was very impressive in their last trip to Cappielow - as he'd been released by Kenny Black after he was sent off for barging into his own captain, Marc Smyth, in their match against Livingston. This was on top of his decision to sign a pre-contract agreement with Dunfermline without telling his manager.

In all the games I've ever been to I can't remember a time when a team came to Cappielow and started time wasting from the first minute but that's exactly what Airdrie did. Every throw in or goal kick was stretched out as long as possible to such an extent that the referee actually started to tell the Diamonds players to get a move on - in the middle of the first half.

In spite of Airdrie's attempts to frustrate the home side Morton had a few decent efforts in the first half. Ryan McGuffie's well struck long range effort was tipped over by Stephen Robertson in the Airdrie goal. Peter Weatherson was the next to test the Airdrie number one with a wicked curling effort however Robertson got down quickly and used both arms to push the ball wide.

The only real 'chance' I can remember Airdrie having was when Kevin Cuthbert totally misjudged a high free-kick and the ball went right over his head and just as the ball looked to be rolling into an empty net Shimmin appeared from behind Cuthbert (from my seat I couldn't see the Dominator as he was right behind Cuthbert in my view) to clear the danger.

The second half was more of the same except Airdrie were sitting even deeper now and in our struggle to break down their stubborn resistance we often resorted to long balls. Over the season I've been very critical of our long ball approach (although the last three matches before this one have been a vast improvement) but last night I felt that it wasn't by design but almost by necessity as our opponents were so compact, and defended so deep, that it was almost impossible for us to get through them. This uber-defensive approach is particularly problematic for Morton due to the fact we lack any sort of guile or creative influence in midfield. Allan McManus, Stewart Greacen and Shimmin passed the ball along the back line looking for angles or for players from the midfield to drop off and pick the ball up but the midfield were reluctant to do so and there just wasn't the space to play through them; so, in reality, the defence had no other option but to punt the ball forward.

However, we still managed to create a few decent chances in the second period. Weatherson manufactured an excellent opening for himself when he dropped his shoulder and dragged the ball past the defender on the inside but Robertson rushed from his line and just blocked Peter's attempt to dink it over him. Weatherson is looking leaner and fitter than he has in a long time and his work rate has increased ten fold. In the past he'd amble about up front waiting on the ball to come to him but on Tuesday night he was harrying defenders and chasing down lost causes. One incident that springs to mind is when he closed down a defender who passed the ball back to a team mate closer to goal, instead of stopping Peter chased down the player now in possession of the ball and then attempted to get back again after he passed it on. Keep it up Spoonsy!

Our next chance saw Robertson pull off the save of the match. Stevie Masterton whipped over a free-kick which Greacen met with a powerful header that looked for all the world like it was destined for the back of the net but Robertson flung up a hand and somehow got the ball over the bar. I've always distinguished between outstanding saves and good saves that a keeper shouldn't be allowed to make that some other people claim as outstanding saves (eg Lee Robinson's save from Iain Russell I talked about in the match report for the Queen Of The South game) and at least two of Robertson's saves in this match were truly outstanding, the kind that you cannot believe he's saved. Robertson - a player we offered a contract to in the summer - was my man of the match in this one and I'd go as far as to say he's the best keeper in this division. Every time I've seen him he pulls off a number of excellent saves and without him Airdrie would probably be relegated already.

I'm currently reading a book by David Goldblatt called The Ball Is Round: A Global History Of Football. The chapter I'm reading at the moment is all about how AC Milan and Inter invented Catenaccio (literally 'door-bolt'). This defensive system focused on getting a clean sheet and anything else was seen as a bonus. I'm not going to give Airdrie credit and suggest that Kenny Black is a modern day Helenio Herrera but his side did come to Cappielow with a Catenaccio-like game plan. They were incredibly cautious and defensive and you could see, particularly in the second half, that they would be delighted to come away with a 0-0. Unfortunately,to the frustration of the Morton players, support and manager, they achieved their goal as we failed to score any of the limited number of chances we managed to create in the second half.

The thinking amongst Catenaccio devotees was that 0-0 was the perfect score of the perfect game - I think they'd change their mind if they were at Cappielow on Tuesday night.

Morton (3-5-2):

1. Cuthbert - 6
2. McManus - 8
3. Shimmin - 7 (16. Walker - 70 mins)
4. Paartalu - 7 (15. Masterton - 50 mins)
5. Greacen (c) - 8
6. Jenkins - 7
7. Finlayson - 6
8. McGuffie - 6
9. Weatherson - 7
10. Grady - 7 (14. Russell - 62 mins)
11. McAlister - 6

Subs Not Used:

12. Wake
20. Cannon

Booked: Greacen.

Greacen McManus Shimmin
Finlayson McGuffie Jenkins McAlister
Weatherson Grady

Airdrie: Robertson, McLachlan, Nixon (Lovering 82), Smyth, Donnelly, McLaughlin, Darren Smith, McKenna, Di Giacomo, Baird, McDonald (Lynch 71).

Subs Not Used: McDougall, Mcguire, Hollis.

Booked: Donnelly.

My man of the match: Stephen Robertson (Airdrie United)

Sponsor's man of the match:

Matchday Programme (Click to enlarge)

Greenock Telegraph match report

BBC match report

The Scottish Sun match report

The Daily Record match report

Tontastic pictures

No comments: