Airdrie United 2 - 4 Morton

Airdrie United 2 - Nixon (2), Baird (4)
Morton 4
- McGuffie (43) Wake (45+1, 53), van Zanten (67)

Att: 1164

It's not over 'til the fat lady sings: a Brian Wake inspired Morton made a stunning comeback after going down two nil in the first five minutes away to bottom club Airdrie United.

James Grady went with the same starting eleven for the third consecutive match. For me, this consistency of selection has been a key ingredient in our recent turnaround. The players now know that one mistake won't automatically result in them dropping right out of the match day squad and right into the manager's bad books. The stability generates confidence and also allows team mates to establish an understanding which results in the whole team functioning as a more coherent unit.

After the first four minutes at New Broomfield you'd have thought the words 'confidence', 'stability', 'functioning', and 'coherent' were alien concepts to the Morton defence. Some fans hadn't even taken their seats before we were two nil down.

In the second minute a sloppy pass by Erik Paartalu eventually lead to Airdrie winning a corner. Former Morton youngster Alan Trouten took the kick quickly and cut the ball back to the edge of the box where another ex-Morton player, Scott McLaughlin, was waiting. The man the Cappielow faithful love to hate seemed to swipe at his shot, but to the Diamonds' fortune the sliced effort landed perfectly for David Nixon who placed his shot under Colin Stewart to open the scoring.

The home team stunned everyone in the stadium by doubling their tally just two minutes later. A through ball from Diarmuid O'Carroll caught the otherwise immaculate David van Zanten a couple of yards behind the rest of the defensive line, thus playing John Baird onside. The former St. Mirren and Montrose striker raced through, took a touch to compose himself and slotted under Stewart with ease.

At this point our defence was all over the place, particularly David MacGregor. He wasn't directly at fault for either goal but he was having a torrid time. He was getting dragged out of position, turned with ease, out muscled; he just generally looked out of sorts beside Greacen in the centre. Alan Reid wasn't much better either. Reid, still listed as a trialist, was outside MacGregor at left-back and didn't do his chances of a permanent contract much good. Both players appeared unsure of themselves and this combination made our left-side stick out like a sore thumb, particularly for the Airdrie strikers who attempted to exploit this weakness time and again. I've always been a MacGregor fan, one who has defended him over the years but I believe the first half in this match was a real watershed in his Ton career. In spite of the fact he recovered his composure in the second half I believe it demonstrated that he is not of sufficient quality to play at centre-half in this division.

One player who has been totally rejuvenated under the new management team is Colin Stewart. The goalkeeper seems to be playing with a new lease of life and it was his save in the 34th minute that stopped Airdrie from scoring their 3rd, and looking at the bigger picture, probably saved his team from going into a position from which there would've been no comeback. The chance was disturbingly like the second goal in that a simple through ball from McLaughlin split our defence and sent Baird racing clear again; however, Stewart stood up, made himself look big and made the block.

While it may have appeared that we were out of the game it was obvious to anyone there that Airdrie were no great shakes and that one goal would see them collapse. This isn't just me saying this with the benefit of hindsight - at two nil down my brother phoned me to ask what the hell was going on. I told him that I was reasonably assured we weren't out of it as Airdrie are a poor, poor side. All we needed was one goal and they could cave in; the only problem was that the way our defence was playing we could always concede a few more ourselves.

The goal we needed arrived in the 43rd minute. Kevin Finlayson whipped over an excellent cross from out on the right - not his first of the day either, as he'd already put the ball right on Brian Wake's head with laser beam precision but the big striker headed straight at Stephen Robertson from six yards - and Ryan McGuffie managed to get ahead of his marker to angle his header back across goal and in off the post. Finners had an excellent match and really seems to have worked on his crossing. He put over several superb crosses which, I believe, is testament to the work James Grady has been putting in. Both in instilling confidence in his players and working on their technique.

It was Morton's turn to stun their opponents as Wakey made it two goals in three minutes to, somewhat miraculously, send the teams in level at half-time. Peter Weatherson nipped past a couple of Airdrie players on the left hand side of the box, a lesser player might have crossed at this point, but Peter drove to the byline before passing inside to Wake. The in-form striker collected the ball with his back to goal, turned and smashed his shot into the roof of the net to level the score. The Airdrie players looked shell shocked and if we could shore up a bit at the back there would only be one winner.

We took the lead just nine minutes into the second half. The goalscorer? - who else but Brian Wake. Jim McAlister took advantage of confusion in the Airdrie defence to play the shaggy haired striker through on the keeper. The big man appeared to take a poor touch which gave Robertson the opportunity to race from his goalline; just when it seemed like the chance had gone the Wakester dinked the ball over the keeper and into the empty net with the outside of his left foot. This was a sublime finish - one that immediately reminded me of a goal Henrik Larsson scored for Celtic, although I can't remember when or who against - and it sent the Ton support into a state of delirium. There's just something different that hightens the goal celebration when it's Wake who produces these unexpected moments of genius.

Newly signed right-back David van Zanten completed the scoring in the 67th minute. Morton were awarded a free-kick right on the edge of the box, but Weatherson crashed his shot into the wall. Fortunately, the ball rebounded to van Zanten, who was lurking outside the box and the Irishman curled a classy left footed shot right into Robertson's top right-hand corner. The finish was particularly impressive as the pitch was soaking, the ball was coming at him at pace and on his weaker side yet van Zanten didn't even break his stride or decide to take a touch. He simply strode onto the loose ball and stroked it into the top corner from 25 yards. This guy is the best full-back we've had since Derek Collins circa 1996. I really hope we can nail him down until the end of the season.

This really was a sensational comeback - one that would never have happened under the previous management. What we have to do now is cut out the defensive errors and I'm sure we'll start to gain on the teams above us and achieve a comfortable mid-table position by the end of the season. The big bonus is that under Grady we will attempt to do this without resorting to route one football. The entertaining brand of football Grady and Allan McManus are starting to introduce might even see the return of the floating fans who were fed up watching our big, strong team punt aimless balls forward. Finally the future is starting to like bright for Morton.

Morton (4-4-2):

1. Stewart - 8
2. Van Zanten - 8
3. MacGregor - 4
4. Reid [Trialist] - 5
5. Greacen - 6
6. Paartalu - 6
7. Finlayson - 8
8. McGuffie - 7
9. Wake - 8 (15. Monti - 89 mins)
10. Weatherson - 8 (16. Graham - 90+2)
11. McAlister - 7

Unused Subs:

12. Harding
14. Kane
20. McWilliams

Booked: Paartalu

van Zanten Greacen MacGregor Reid
Finlayson Paartalu McGuffie McAlister
Wake Weatherson

Airdrie United: Robertson, McCann, Storey, McLaughlin, Donnelly, Nixon (McDonald - 46), Trouten (Watt - 80), Lagana (Keegan - 72), O'Carroll, Waddell, Baird.

Subs Not Used: Smith, Hollis.

Booked: Bobby Donnelly

My man of the match: Kevin Finlayson

Sponsor's man of the match:

Matchday Programme (Click to enlarge)

Greenock Telegraph - Match Report

Greenock Telegraph - Match Reaction

The Scottish Sun - Match Report

The Daily Record - Match Report

airdrieunitedfc.com - Match Report

bbc sport - Match Report

Bob Dalzell pics

1 comment:

mortonjag said...

I've described Finlayson in the past as the 'blinkered greyhound'- indeed that has been one of my more euphemistic endearments for a man who was huge for Stranraer and has for me been the most frustrating player at Cappielow.

SUDDENLY Superkev's getting telling crosses into the box. Is that something he just happened to chance on overnight?

Makes you REALLY wonder how bad McInally and Irons were. Look at wee Gardyne for example -never given a chance at Cappielow and whooping it up at Ross County.

Early days, but in JG we may well have our best manager since Benny Rooney!