Unirea Urziceni 3 - Todoran (15), Dănălache (36), Paraschiv (88)
It's not often Morton come up against teams who are national champions and who have the earned the right to compete in the Champions League so this was a good opportunity to see a better calibre of player than we're used to at Cappielow. That proved to be the case, and although Unirea never really went through the gears, they had more than enough to come away with a pretty comfortable victory.
In the three pre-season matches played so far Davie Irons has started with a 4-4-2 but he went with a more cautious approach and decided to line up with a 5 man midfield and Peter Weatherson up front on his own in this one. You can understand Irons' decision as we were up against superior opposition who would, most likely, control the game by retaining possession in midfield. Therefore it makes sense for Morton, as the weaker team, to try and combat this threat with superior numbers.
Morton were very cagey in the first half; we had the look of a team who were worried about the damage the opposition could do. We tried to get a foothold in the game by sitting tight and letting the Romanians come onto us and try and pass through our five man midfield. This worked to an extent but to the complete detriment of any attacking play of our own. In the end the effectiveness of any gameplan was rendered obsolete when we gave away a couple of howlers in the 15th and 36th minutes.
The first came when Carlo Monti only succeeded in clearing a left wing centre right onto the head of an onrushing Unirea midfielder. The ball fell right to the feet of Dinu Todoran who tucked the ball home with ease from just outside the six yard box.
The second was even worse. Morton had numerous opportunities to clear a cross from the left but they failed to do so and Cristian Dănălache eventually managed to emerge from the scramble and knock the ball over the line while appearing to be lying down.
As aforementioned Morton weren't much of an attacking force in the first half. In fact, our first shot on target came from Allan Jenkins and arrived around about the 40th minute. Jenkins' volley was comfortably saved by Grigore. However, it was very disappointing to hear the shot greeted with the same ironic cheers that I also heard on the webcast when Colin Stewart caught the ball in the match against Crawley Town. Jenkins didn't take the criticism well and gestured to the crowd. You can understand both the player's frustration and that of the fans but I think some supporters have to take a look at themselves. We were playing a Champions League team and the players were obviously under strict instructions to limit their attacking in an attempt to contain the opposition. How would you feel if you were out on the pitch, playing against a far superior opposition and after attempting to score a goal you were made a fool of by your own supporters - not very good I'd imagine.
Whatever Irons said at half-time really got the players going and they came out for the second half and played as if they had nothing to lose. Stevie Masterton played particularly well in the second half and it was he who halved the deficit on the hour. Jim McAlister was also very impressive - it has since emerged that Dan Petrescu thought so too - and it was after his trademark jinking run down the left and cut back that Masterton drilled under sub goalkeeper Tudor from the edge of the box. McAlister has often been accused of lacking composure when it comes to his final ball, be it a shot or a cross and there is a lot of truth in that. But on this occasion he was the epitome of cool as just as he looked as if he was about to swing out at the ball he fooled everyone by picking out Masterton who was unmarked on the edge of the box. If Jimbo had showed this kind of vision on a regular basis he probably wouldn't be at Cappielow now.
Masterton has a few more long range efforts that Tudor did well to parry before the Romanians finished off any hope of a comeback in the 88th minute. Central midfielder Sorin Paraschiv's side footed effort appeared to be saved on the line by the American trialist goalkeeper but the linesman ran back to the halfway line confirming that it was a goal. I have since talked to a pal who was sat in the main stand and he confirmed the ball was well over the line. In any case it was an excellent attempt at a save from the trialist goalie. Incidentally, there was another trialist goalkeeper from the Czech Republic in the squad but he didn't get any action and Irons has said since that there will be no further interest there.
Overall this was a decent workout for Morton but you get the feeling that Unirea could have stepped it up a level at anytime they wanted. Something that is also put into perspective by the fact that they had already walked a mile to the ground after their bus crashed in Port Glasgow. It will be interesting to follow Unirea's progress in the Champions League in the coming season especially if McAlister signs and links up with their latest signing Edgar Davids.
1. Trialist - 6
2. McGuffie - 7
3. Monti - 5
4. McManus - 6
5. Greacen - 7
6. Masterton - 7
7. Finlayson - 5 (15. Russell - 71 mins)
8. MacFarlane - 5 (16. Wake - 73 mins)
9. Weatherson - 7 (12. Graham - 73 mins)
10. Jenkins - 6 (16. MacGregor - 74 mins)
11. McAlister - 8
McGuffie Greacen McManus Monti
Finlayson Masterton MacFarlane Jenkins McAlister
Unirea Urziceni (4-4-2): 77. Grigore (74. Tudor, 46); 25. Pădureţu (21. Unknown, 46), 16. Nicu, 4. Mehmedovic, 23. Bordeanu; 5. Todoran (32. Apostol, 61), 8. Paraschiv, 10. Marinescu, 30. Frunză; 28. Stan (11.Onofraş, 59), 15. Dănălache
Pădureţu Nicu Mehmedovic Bordeanu
Todoran Paraschiv Marinescu Frunză
My man of the match: Jim McAlister
Sponsor's man of the match: n/a
Matchday Programme (Click to enlarge)