In an article in today's Greenock Telegraph he talks to David Christie and says that he hates missing matches and is really proud of the number of games he has played for Morton: “It is weird, as I have been used to building up to a Saturday for years and years, and now I can’t be involved. It has been frustrating more than anything.
“To have played from a reasonably young age in the first team and start in so many games, I am really proud of building up such a record, but now it won’t continue.
“I just hate missing games. I’ve been hit quite a few times, but I seem to recover as I look after myself off the park. Touch wood, I have been lucky with injuries, never having any muscle problems."
Jim (pictured, above left) made his Morton debut in the 2002/03 season and since then he has started 217 matches and made 16 substitute appearances. This Saturday will see the end of Jim's run of 129 consecutive appearances in all competitions and will be only the third match he hasn't started in all Morton fixtures for the last five seasons.
Greenock Telegraph - McAlister: Not Playing In Perth Is 'Really Weird' (30.04.2009)
Viewfield Rovers 0 -
A very strong Morton team cruised into the Renfrewshire Cup final after a convincing 11-0 win.
Davie Irons went with a strong starting XI, one that you might even expect to face St. Johnstone on Saturday. This was probably due to the fact that we had no game at the weekend and he wanted to give the players a run out. The only starters who can't be considered first team regulars were Ryan McWilliams in goal and Carlo Monti in midfield.
The demolition began in the 10th minute when Kevin Finlayson picked the ball up on the edge of the box and smashed a shot past Shearer in the Viewfield goal. The ball hit the post and flew across goal and in at the other side.
Surprisingly it was another 22 minutes before we scored again but this one was worth waiting for. Ryan McGuffie strode forward from midfield and fired a shot into the top right hand corner with the precision of a laser beam.
The third arrived three minutes later when Peter Weatherson - who didn't have the best of nights having missed numerous chances over the 90 minutes - arrived at the back post to volley an Iain Russell cross against the goalkeeper and in.
In the last action of the first half Brian Wake ran onto a long ball over the top and lifted the ball over the unrushing keeper however his shot bounced, struck the base of the post and ran to safety.
So the score was 3-0 at half-time. Without wanting to be disrespectful to Viewfield I thought they were the poorest team I've seen Morton play in a Renfrewshire Cup semi-final and that there should've been far more than a three goal margin at half-time. Irons seemed to agree and went with a 2-4-4 formation in the second half.
James Grady was introduced at the interval and seemed as hungry for goals as he did at the beginning of his career. Only a minute after the kick-off he got his first, and Morton's fourth, when he stabbed a McGuffie lay off past Shearer. A minute later he volleyed against the cross bar and over.
Unsuprisingly Grady scored again in the 54th minute when he popped up in the right place at the right time to tap a Finlayson cross, that Russell swiped at and missed, into the net. The veteran was showing no mercy to his amateur opponents in his quest for goals and completed his hat trick when he headed a Russell cross home from a couple of yards out.
Brian Wake tapped in McGuffie square ball for 7 in the 76th minute. Grady made it 8-0 four minutes later when he cooly placed the ball past the keeper after he had expertly controlled Monti's excellent ball over the top. Darren McGeough came on as a sub (and impressed me with his distrubition and calm manner in possession) and flighted an excellent cross for Weatherson to head home. Spoonsy had missed quite a few chances up to this point and looked quite relieved to get his second goal. In fact, he actually took time to have a bit of banter with a guy in the crowd suggesting that's what happens when he gets the right service.
Russell made it 10 when he stooped to head home a Finalyson cross. Wakey completed the scoring in the 87th minute when he slotted home from a very tight angle.
Overall this was a very easy win but that's to be expected when you put out what is close to a full strength side against an amateur team. I was talking with a pal about how the Renfrewshire Cup could be improved and we both kind of agreed it would be quite interesting if the Renfrewshire FA allowed junior teams to compete. The likes of Arthurlie (who won the Renfrewshire Cup in 1956/57), Renfrew, Johnstone Burgh, Greenock and Port Glasgow might put up more of a fight and make the competition more interesting.
Morton (3-5-2; 2-4-4):
1. McWilliams - 7
2. McManus - 6 (12. Grady - 46 mins - 8)
3. Walker - 6 (15. Smith - 46 mins - 6)
4. Paartalu - 6
5. Greacen (c) - 7
6. McGuffie - 7 (14. McGeough - 79mins)
7. Finlayson - 8
8. Russell - 7
9. Weatherson - 5
10. Wake - 6 (12. Grady - 74 mins)
11. Monti - 5
Subs Not Used:
Greacen McManus Walker
Finlayson Monti Paartalu McGuffie Russell
Finlayson Monti Paartalu McGuffie
Russell Weatherson Grady Wake
Viewfield Rovers: Shearer, Campbell, McDermott, Leonard, Fitzsimmons, Currie, Joyce (Martin, 80), Evans, Cairney, McIntyre (Cowie, 62), McCullough.
My man of the match: Kevin Finlayson
Sponsor's man of the match: n/a
Matchday Programme (Click to enlarge)
The striker - who will only turn 28 this summer - has been advised to retire due to a serious knee injury. This is a sad end to a career that never really reached the heights it could due to O'Connor being quite injury prone. One particular injury that will stick in the mind of most Ton fans was when Colin Reilly's horror tackle left him in a crumpled heap in the last minute of a Challenge Cup tie against us at Palmerston in 2002/03. Talking about the tackle Sean told qos.co.uk : "It was my worst moment in football. The pain was excruciating and I actually thought it was the end of my football career."
I always quite liked O'Connor (pictured, above left: celebrating with Scott Miller and below: playing against Berwick) and vividly remember singing "Heeyyyy Sean O'Connor, ohhh, aahhhh, I wanna knooooww if you'll score a goal" in Babylon one night after he'd scored a double in a 4-1 win away to Stranraer. Hopefully he makes a success of whatever he does after he retires.
O'Connor scored 9 goals in 23 starts and 1 sub appearance for Morton in his time on loan from Dundee United.
qosfc.com - Sean O'Connor To 'Hang Up His Boots' (28.04.2009)
qosvideos.co.uk - The Night I Thought My Career Was Over
On the players Duffy (pictured, above left) said:
"My old Morton team mate was one of the game's unsung heroes. He was a great footballing defender and someone who was so comfortable with the ball at his feet. The fact he played with Morton for about 13 years says a lot."
"He was also a great passer and crosser but he was best known during his time with Dundee for his work-rate. He was up and down the pitch all day long."
"Scorer of some great goals with Morton but also a brilliant guy. The kind you needed around the dressing room to lift players."
And on himself he said:
"I think my style worked well along with Gordon [Rae] as it allowed me to play around his aggressive style."
In a similarly themed Scottish Sun article another two ex-Morton players were picked out as a hard opponents. In answer to the question: Off their heads. Who were the hardest players you faced? former Rangers player Tom Forsyth answered:
"Battling centre-forwards such as Sugar Osborne of Morton, Eddie Morrison of Kilmarnock [who also played for the Ton] and Dixie Ingram of Ayr. They were brave and they battled all day. They were worth their weight in gold and I always had a hard tussle against them."
The plan was unveiled by Russell Steele in Wednesday's Greenock Telegraph. In the article Steele reveals that the Greenock Morton Youth Academy Ltd will be run independently of the club as a charitable organisation and that this has been given the green light by the club. The set up will continue as is for next season and the plan is to have the academy up and running by the start of the 2010/11 season. The set up will start at SFA initiative league criteria with the aim of reaching the gold standard for youth football - performance league status - as soon as possible.
On the decision to run the academy seperately from the club Duncan said: "The academy will be run independently of the club but obviously with very close links. The benefit of having a charitable organisation is that we will be able to make grant applications.
"We will also seek sponsorship and carry out fundraising, as the number of youth teams we run will obviously depend on the funding available."
I think Stuart deserves tremendous credit for taking the initiative and making something like this happen. However, I'm still unsure about the club. It seems to me that they have granted Stuart permission to use the club's name for the academy but not much else. The academy will be run independently, as a charitbale organisation, which suggests to me that the club aren't that interested in financing or running the set up but I'm sure they will be happy to take any young players that are produced. It will be interesting to see what will happen in the future should an exciting prospect break into the Morton first team and earn a transfer fee to a bigger club; will the Youth Academy take a percentage of the tranfer fee as part of a written agreement, will the club make the decision of how much money to put back in or will they simply keep any monies made from transfers.
However, that's all for the future - I'm just delighted that there are ambitious plans in place to overhaul an important aspect of the football club that has been ignored for too long. Something that current defender and Under-19s manager Allan McManus acknowledged in yesterday's Tele': “It has to be done as at the moment we are dealing with the basics. For the size of the area Greenock covers, there are far too many kids slipping through the net. Obviously they are going to go elsewhere if there is nothing for them at their local club so to introduce this is an absolute no-brainer. But it is essential they think about the facilities as well. The under-19s play their home games at the Battery Park which is affected by the wind, but some of the parks we play on, well you wouldn’t walk your dog on them. We are trying to teach the kids to pass and move the ball then we turn up and see the state of the pitch for the match.”
Hopefully the Greenock Morton Youth Academy will address McManus's concerns and give all Morton fans a youth set-up we can be proud of.
You can read the article by clicking on the images below.
Greenock Telegraph - Ton Unveil Youth Academy Plans (22.04.2009)
Greenock Telegraph - Facilities Hold The Key For Ton (23.04.2009)
We have met Viewfield twice in recent Renfrewshire Cup semi-finals. At the end of season 2006/07 we beat them 5-0 (pictured, above left) and going further back we beat them 10-1 at the beginning of the 2004/05 season.
gmfc.net - Renfrewshire Cup - Semi-Final
Morton 5-0 Viewfield Rovers - match report
Partick Thistle 1 - Akins (20)
Morton blew their small chance of promotion with a poor performance in front of Cappielow's biggest league crowd of the season.
In what must be some sort of record for the season Davie Irons went with an unchanged starting line up for the third week in a row.
The first half was characterised by both goalkeepers flapping at almost every cross that came their way and it was one of these incidents that lead to Thistle's opener (which, as it turned out, would be the winner). Ian Maxwell took a long throw from out at the stand side and Kevin Cuthbert came out to punch clear but his connection was flimsy and he only succeeded in sending the ball to the edge of the box. From there it was knocked back into the box and Lucas Akins - on loan from Hamilton Accies - flicked out a right boot and managed to knock the ball past Cuthbert and into the corner of the net with the outside of his right boot.
Thistle's Jonny Tuffey was also having a nightmare. The Northern Ireland international is usually very reliable but on Saturday he looked as if he couldn't catch a cold. However, his catching and jumping weren't the only errors of judgement he was showing. In the 28th minute Stevie Masterton lined up a free-kick. He struck it low with a bit of curve and Tuffey jumped past the ball with his arms raised to suggest he didn't touch it and was letting it run out of play but he got it totally wrong and the ball crashed off the inside of the post and, frustratingly for the Ton support, bounced agonisingly across the face of goal and out into play.
It was a poor first half and Morton deserved to go on 1-0 down. The most frustrating aspect of the game was that we seemed to have returned to the aimless long balls that blighted our game earlier in the season. I'm not sure if the players were feeling nervous because the match had been hyped up as a last chance for promotion for both sides or Partick Thistle were pressing well and forcing errors but I did notice the midfield's lack of desire to get on the ball. There was an incident in the second half when Alex Walker had the ball out on the left. Allan Jenkins could have easily dropped off his marker to pick the ball up but he stood where he was giving Walker no real option but to clip a high ball forward which was met with a large collective groan from the Cowshed. Usually Jenks is the man who will drop of for the ball, it was just that in this one example he didn't. I'd say Ryan McGuffie and Stevie Masterton are more guilty of avoiding possession of the ball in those situations - McGuffie's tendency to hide really frustrates me. He is a quality player but in my eyes always avoids taking responsibility. You only have to look at the way Jenkins will demand the ball and try to drive forward with it and compare it with the way McGuffie always tries to get rid of it as soon as he gets it.
Thistle, and Akins in particular, really should have put this game to bed in the second half. He had three glaring one-on-one chances but on each ocassion the pacy striker lacked composure; he blasted one chance wildly over the bar, another miles wide and a third directly at Cuthbert. If Akins could add that bit of composure in front of goal to his pace and strength he could score a lot of goals at this level.
Cuthbert's save from Akins was one of three made in the second half to make up for his shaky first half performance. The closest we came to scoring in the second half came from a Masterton corner that struck the cross bar. The way Masterton was whipping them in it actually looked as if he was trying to score all afternoon.
Peter Weatherson also had a header well saved by Tuffey but we failed to make the breakthrough and Thistle left Cappielow with the three points they deserved. It is hard to get too downbeat about this result after our excellent recent form but it was frustrating to see St. Johnstone lose 3-2 to Queen Of The South on the Sunday - particularly as we still have a trip to McDiarmid Park a week on Saturday.
1. Cuthbert - 6
2. McManus - 6
3. Walker - 6
4. McGuffie - 5 (14. Russell - 66 mins)
5. Greacen (c) - 7
6. Masterton - 6
7. Finlayson - 4
8. Jenkins - 6 (15. Paartalu - 85 mins)
9. Weatherson - 5
10. Wake - 6 (12. Grady - 74 mins)
11. McAlister - 6
Subs Not Used:
Greacen McManus Walker
Finlayson Jenkins Masterton McGuffie McAlister
Partick Thistle: Tuffey, Paton, Twaddle, Maxwell, John Robertson, Archibald, Chaplain, Rowson, Akins (McKinlay 80), Doolan (Donnelly 58), Harkins.
Subs Not Used: Kinniburgh, Storey, Hinchcliffe.
My man of the match: Stewart Greacen
Sponsor's man of the match: Stevie Masterton
Matchday Programme (Click to enlarge)
In February the Ton captain (pictured, above left) won 37% of the vote (17 out of 45 votes). His closest rival was Allan Jenkins who won 17% (8 /45) while Erik Paartalu, Kevin Finlayson and Peter Weatherson all shared third place with each receiving 8% of the votes (4/45).
The March poll was a much closer affair. Again Stewart pipped Jenkins to the award but by just 3 votes this time. Greacen won 30% of the vote (13 out of 42 votes) while Jenks won 23% (10 /42). Allan McManus - my personal choice - came third with 16% (7/42).
February's full results:
Peter Weatherson - 4 (8%)
Kevin Finlayson - 4 (8%)
Erik Paartalu - 4 (8%)
Brian Wake - 3 (6%)
Dominic Shimmin - 2 (4%)
Chris Smith - 1 (2%)
Ryan McGuffie - 1 (2%)
Jim McAlister - 1 (2%)
March's full results:
Allan Jenkins - 10 (23%)
Kevin Cuthbert - 3 (7%)
Peter Weatherson - 3 (7%)
Stevie Masterton - 2 (4%)
Jim McAlister - 2 (4%)
Ryan McGuffie - 1 (2%)
James Grady - 1 (2%)
Fans also have the opportunity to pick their player of the year by sending in their votes to the Greenock Telegraph - who have decided to resurrect their Sir William Lithgow player of the year award this season.
According to Roger Graham the award "lapsed during the tenure of the previous owner of the club."
You can vote by sending in your choice to:
2 Crawfurd Street
Wednesday's Tele' included a form to fill out and send in (pictured, below) but I'm not sure if your choice needs to be sent in on one of those or can simply be written on a piece of paper but I do know any votes must reach the Tele office by the 4th of May as the award will be presented to the winning player before the Ross County match on the 9th of May.
Greenock Telegraph - Vote For Your Ton Player Of The Year (15.04.2009)
According to David Christie in today's Greenock Telegraph The Ton goals were scored by Iain Russell and James Grady.
Davie Irons said that the match allowed him to try three up front - a formation he may go with against St. Johnstone, he said: “James and Iain took their goals really well. It is good the strikers are scoring and it gives me food for thought as we might have to change our system and really go for it. The Scotland match gave me a chance to look at a couple of positions and possible different formations. We managed to get three strikers on for a couple of the periods with a view to going to Perth needing to win."
Greenock Telegraph - Strikers Send Boss Message (16.04.2009)
McAlister - and Stevie Masterton,who was also booked - will miss the trip to McDiarmid Park to play St. Johnstone on the 2nd of May. The suspension comes when a player goes over 18 disciplinary points - which can be accumulated over two seasons.
Jim (pictured, above) is our only ever present this season. In the past four seasons (2004/05 to 2007/08) he started every match except two: in the first match of 2004/05 he was a used substitute and he was rested for the last league match of 2005/06 - a meaningless match against Forfar which preceeded the play-offs with Peterhead. He started every match in 2006/07 and 2007/08.
Greenock Telegraph - We'll Keep Going Says Ton Boss (14.04.2009)
SFA - List Of Suspensions: Thursday, April 16, 2009
In an article in Saturday's Greenock Telegraph the big defender told Roger Graham that his original injury lay off with a hamstring strain has now been exacerbated by a torn tendon: “I stepped up my rehab and training last week, but felt something. It turns out to have been a pretty bad tear in the tendon. I seem to have aggravated the injury.”
When asked if he'd be back before the end of the season, he said: “I’ll be very unhappy if I’m not. I think the problem is that I was playing with a lot of injuries — a lot of niggles, when we were down near the bottom of the league. Then I maybe rushed back too soon. This time I am going to make sure I am properly fit before I return.”
“I don’t like watching. I keep wishing I was playing. It was really enjoyable earlier in the season, but I guess I’ll just have to bide my time.”
In a thread on greenockmorton.org it has been suggested that Dominic (pictured, above) and Davie Irons have had a fall out and that he may never play for the club again. I really hope this isn't the case and that Shimmin does play before the end of the season.
Greenock Telegraph - Frustrated Dom (11.04.2009)
Morton 2 - Wake (19, 83)
A Brian Wake double secured Morton's first ever win at Almondvale and moved us up to third in the league at Livingston's expense.
As expected Davie Irons went with the same team that beat Dundee 2-0 last week.
You may have read about Livingston's alleged financial troubles in the media but it's only when you visit the place that you can sense that this is a club in turmoil. On Saturday Almondvale had the eerie feeling and tense atmosphere that used to surround Cappielow during Hugh Scott's time as chairman. The matchday programme included an insert from chairman Angelo Massone (which you can read by clicking on the image at he bottom of this match report) in which he went on a Scott-esque rant about how everyone was conspiring against him; in particular five or six prominent fans (Livi's Danny Goodwin and Andy Morrison?) and the Scottish media. Outside the ground the Morton fans queued to get into just two turnstyles while others lay unused. Some fans began to complain and the police explained - in a tone that seems to suggest they are sceptical of the owners and have sympathy with the fans - that it was the club's decision to only open two turnstyles. Then after paying £17 to get in (possibly on top of a £5 charge to park your car) you have the choice of sitting on seats either caked in bird shit (pictured, directly below) or just boggin' with dirt. Sometimes when I'm at a football match I feel as if I'm at the centre of the universe, somewhere everyone wants to be that has the eyes of the nation on it (Scotland v France for example) but the small crowd of 1800 inside the all seater bowl gave you the feeling that this was the exact opposite; this was an event that no one else in Livingston knew was going on, wanted to be at or more importantly cared about. The Lions are in trouble and, apart from their small band of loyal fans, no one cares.
Anyway... on to the important stuff. All season we have read that Morton are a big, physical team but Saturday was the first time I really noticed it, both visually and through our dominance in the game. Our players looked like giants compared to the home team and played like it as well. We bullied them from start to finish and this helped us control the game for 90 minutes.
We took a deserved lead after 19 minutes. Kevin Finalyson took a quick throw in to Stevie Masterton who whipped over an excellent cross which Brian Wake met with a superb glancing header that looped over Roddy McKenzie's despairing dive in the Livi goal (pictured, below).
We almost doubled our lead minutes later when Ryan McGuffie used the inside of his right foot to curl a shot into the top corner but his effort was matched by McKenzie who managed to flick the ball over the bar.
In between those two chances Jim McAlister was booked for a dive on the edge of the box but from where I was sitting the decision looked harsh.
It wasn't a great match but we were working extremely hard and doing all the right things without creating too much but neither were Livi. Somethingthe defence deserve tremendous credit for considering they were up against Leigh Griffiths - Scotland under-19 internationalist, Irn-Bru young player of the month for March, who had recently been invited to train with Serie B side Parma - who has terrorised our back three on many occasions this season. It looked like Irons had identified Griffiths as the main threat as Stewart Greacen and Allan McManus appeared to concentrate on combining to stifle the green-booted striker (after Greacen had dealt with the woeful Armand One by giving him a couple of rough challenges early on). This might not have been by design but by necessity as Griffiths stuck to the left-hand side (Morton's right) meaning he was closer to Greacen, on the right of the back three, and McManus in the centre. Whatever the reasons this still left Alex Walker to deal with most other threats. Something he did, and admirably so, eventually earning him my man of the match.
Morton deserved their 1-0 lead going into the interval - a lead that could see us gain more ground on St. Johnstone in our unlikely (some would say imaginary) late title push. However, the nervous optimism dissipated as the news filtered through that St. Johnstone had retaken the lead against Dunfermline just before half-time.
The players came out in the second half and continued where they left off in the first. The defence were solid, the midfield worked hard as did the strikers. Jenkins, in particular, was colossal physcially. He constantly out-muscled his rivals in midfield. However, where he did let himself down a little was with his distribution. After dispossessing an opponent he would invariably surge forward on one of his trademark runs but then he would end up losing the ball by holding onto it too long instead of releasing a team mate. I just wonder if he was playing with a knock as this was uncharacteristic of the former Gretna man.
We doubled our lead in the 83rd minute and it was the enigma that is Wakey who grabbed his second. A McAlister throw in was flicked on by McGuffie and the ball fell perfectly for Wake who swivelled and hooked his left foot around the ball to fire it into McKenzie's bottom right hand corner. As I've said so many times in match reports I just can't get my head around Wake. He frustrates and delights in equal measure. One minute he can look so clumsy and slow in possession and drive you nuts by sitting sitters then the next he's in the right place at the right time to score an absolute belter. I can't believe the amount of times I'm standing with my mates and we are criticising him for a poor piece of play only for him to pop up with a goal a minute later and leave us all staring at each other open mouthed laughing as he celebrates wildly. As I said to my pal on Saturday: "He just scores goals." - and that's exactly what you want from your strikers. You can forgive him his weaknesses as long as he finds the back of the net regularly and the fact that this was his 12th goal of the season suggests he does.
Towards the end James Grady and Iain Russell replaced the tiring strike force as Morton cruised to the three points that would push us up to third ahead of today's opponents.
We were well worth our win and although St. Johnstone effectively ended any hope we had of finishing above them by beating Dunfermline 3-1 we have moved up to third with the chance of moving up to second if we beat Partick Thistle next week. Who thought we would have been saying that after we went through the first quarter of the season without a win.
1. Cuthbert - 7
2. McManus - 8
3. Walker - 8
4. McGuffie - 7
5. Greacen (c) - 8
6. Masterton - 7
7. Finlayson - 6
8. Jenkins - 6
9. Weatherson - 7 (14. Russell - 74 mins)
10. Wake - 8 (12. Grady - 83 mins)
11. McAlister - 6
Subs Not Used:
Booked: McAlister, Masterton
Greacen McManus Walker
Finlayson Jenkins Masterton McGuffie McAlister
Livingston: McKenzie, McKay (MacDonald 46), Malone, Griffin, Davidson, Miller, McParland, Hamill, Griffiths, Fox (Halliday 53), One (Winters 53).
Subs Not Used: Sinclair, McDowall.
My man of the match: Alex Walker
Stewart's last start was in the 2-0 win over Partick Thistle on the 30th of December while is last appearance on the substitutes bench was in the 0-0 draw with St. Johnstone on the 31st of January. Since then he has been replaced by under-19 goalkeeper Kieran Cannon. Yet up until today there has been no mention of him being injured and even then there is no description of the injury, just that he has an injury situation. The fact that Graham says "in the manager's words" suggests to me that he has his doubts about the truth in this statement - as do I and other Morton fans.
Stewart (pictured; in his last start against Partick Thistle) signed a 2 year deal last May. It'll be interesting to see if he's still at Cappielow for the second year of the contract.
Greenock Telegraph - Confidence Is The Key Says Ton Boss (10.04.2009)
Morton Under-19s 1 - Monti
U-19s League Cup
Sunday 22nd March 2009
by Chris Silver
Even though this match was played on Mothering Sunday your roving reporter managed to use up some football vouchers to take in the delights of Falkirk for the Morton Under-19s trip to take on their East Stirling counterparts.
Morton's young management duo of Allan McManus and James Grady will have mixed emotions with the result against the Shire. We shared the spoils in a 1-1 draw but this was game we really should have won; particularly as sterner opposition await with Dumbarton, Ayr United and Partick Thistle also in our group (section 2) for the League Cup.
Chalky rang the changes but kept faith with the 4-3-3 formation. Darren McGeough took up the holding role in midfield in place of Lee Mitchell, who found himself on the bench. First team regulars 'Big Paddy' (defence) and Kenneth MacKay were both missing. As a result Liam Kerrigan, Ryan McWilliams and Troy McKerrell found themselves needed on the bench while Carlo Monti - a recent signing from Celtic - took up a position on the left of the midfield three.
The bright sunshine warmed the rutted surface of Firs Park as the 2 teams took to the park. As the game kicked off the young Ton side wasted no time in exerting some early pressure from a series of corners but indifferent delivery and a pitch that had a surface reminiscent of some of the potholed roads of Inverclyde hampered our chances of scoring.
It was clear from these early exchanges that the Shire were pretty limited so it seemed more a case of when, rather than if, the Ton would open them up. A neat triangle of passing between Monti (pictured, above left) Daniel Friel and Nathan Shepherd released Friel. The striker's first touch deceived his marker but his shoot was easily dealt with by their keeper.
Friel was definitely causing problems. A cross field pass by McGeough presented Friel with a one-on-one chance but he failed to tuck it away.
With the clock running down to half-time Morton conceded an unlikely goal to somehow make a match in which they'd been totally dominant an uphill struggle. The same defensive frailties seem to undo us every week. The centre-back pairing are slow to react to balls through the middle and it was just such a ball that allowed East Stirling number 9 to smash the ball past the stranded Kieran Cannon from the edge of the box to make it 1-0 to the home side.
I have to say I was shellshocked as I had just witnessed, in my humble opinion, the most hapless team I have seen this season take a totally undeserved lead into the half-time interval.
McManus resisted the temptation to make changes and started the second half with the same team that took to the field in the first half. Despite a renewed vigour from the restart it was Shire's Number 9 who almost netted a second with a quick turn and rifled shot which went agonisingly close to hitting the net.
Our passing game was always in evidence although new signing Monti was guilty of over elaborating by trying to bamboozle East Stirling team rather than play the simpler pass - something more in keeping with his team mates playing style.
We started to exert more pressure and as usual most of the danger came down our left hand side as Chris Gordon and Shepherd - who had, not unusually, abandoned his left-back role to appease his more attacking instincts - combined to good effect. However, the Shire's goalkeeper was proving a bit of an obstacle as he made a series of fine stops to deny efforts from McGeough, Friel and Monti.
Morton continued to search for the equaliser and a short burst by Friel earned a free-kick in a good position after he was felled by the incoming centre half. Unfortunately the free kick was poor as another good chance was spurned. Minutes later Gordon played in the overlapping Shepherd but his cross wasn't accurate enough.
We looked as if we could play all day and not score so East Stirling must've been gutted when Monti's long range free kick sailed by everyone and dropped behind their goalkeeper into the net to level the score at 1-1.
McManus deciced to make a few changes at this juncture: Mark Melville was replaced by Kerrigan with Anthony Houston moving to the central defence and Kerrigan coming in at right-back. Personally, I thought McLay was a spent force in midfield and could have been replaced to push for a winner.
Monti forced the save of the day with a fierce drive from around 12 yards while Gordon was also impressing with his determined tackling in an attempt to cover for Shepherd 'who had cut the string' and gone on a charge. However, the game fizzled out with neither side being fully convincing. This should have been the easiest of the games we have in this section and I'm sure Chalky will be disappointed not to have taken the three points back to Greenock.
Houston Unknown Melville Shepherd
McLay McGeough Monti
Friel Unknown Gordon
Morton Under-19s Results - Season 2008/09
thescottishfootballleague.com - Under 19 League Cup Tables
thescottishfootballleague.com - Under 19 League Cup Results
thescottishfootballleague.com - Under 19 League Cup Fixtures
thescottishfootballleague.com - Irn-Bru Scottish Football League Under 19