Morton 0 - 1 Celtic

Morton 0 -
Celtic 1
- McGinn (35)

Att: 10,191

Nothing ventured, nothing gained: A solitary strike by Celtic's Northern Irish international, Niall McGinn, was enough to send Tony Mowbray's poor Celtic side through to the next round of the Scottish Cup at Morton's expense.

James Grady sprang a bit of suprise by continuing with two fowards - Brian Wake and Peter Weatherson - in a 4-4-2 formation. Elsewhere there was two changes to the team that lost 1-0 to Partick Thistle on the 4th of January: Ryan McGuffie came in at right-back in place of David van Zanten, who had recently left the club to sign for Hamilton Accies, while Allan Jenkins replaced Erik Paartalu in the central midfield. Paartalu missed out through injury and new signing Michael Tidser was unavailable as he hadn't been registered in time to play. Apart from those two James Grady had a full squad to choose from.

Celtic, on the other hand, were missing a host of players: Barry Robson and Gary Caldwell had recently left to join Middlesbrough and Wigan respectively; Scott Brown, Shaun Maloney, Stephen McManus, Danny Fox, Scott McDonald, and Paul McGowan were all missing through inury or suspension; Landry N'Guemo is currently unavailable as he is at the African Cup of Nations with Cameroon; and new signings Ki Sung-Yeung and Jan Hooiveld were, like Tidser, ineligible.

Grady's decision to go with a 4-4-2 formation was an adventurous move by a manager who was determined to have a go at a weak Celtic side who are struggling in this season's SPL. However, apart from a rousing first 15 minutes in which Morton got right in the faces of their more illustrious opponents, we really failed to trouble a Celtic side who were always in control without actually impressing much themselves.

In the aforementioned rousing first 15 minutes Morton created two decent chances. In the 5th minute Allan Jenkins skited a left foot volley well wide after Brian Wake had flicked the ball into his path while lying on the ground. Then in the 18th minute Artur Boruc made his only real save of the night when he dived low to his left to block Peter Weatherson left footed shot. Peter's slaloming run past Glenn Loovens was reminiscent of the sort of charges forward that he used to make from right-back during the 2006/07 season. Unfortunately, this time he had to try and beat a Polish international goalkeeper rated to be worth about £8 million, rather than the likes of Alloa Athletic's Allan Creer.

Even though Morton were really getting in their opponents faces to stop them settling down or control the game Celtic still managed to create a couple of half chances. Colin Stewart held a Niall McGinn effort in the 15th minute. Eight minutes later Aiden McGeady fired wide after terrorising Kevin Finlayson and Ryan McGuffie.

Celtic opened the scoring in the 35th minute, and it was no surprise that it was there most impressive player on the night, Niall McGinn, who got it. Marc-Antoine Fortuné forced his way down the Morton right and skipped past Kevin Finlayson as if he wasn't there to get to the bye-line before cutting back to Georgios Samaras who failed to connect with the ball. Unfortunately, the ball ran on to the unmarked McGinn, who took a touch before smashing the ball past Stewart.

The roles were reversed shortly afterwards as Samaras released McGinn with a stunning through ball that disected the Morton back line. McGinn returned the favour to Fortuné by swinging a cross towards him at the back post, but the £3.8 million signing from French club Nancy failed to properly connect with his volley and fired into the Sinclair Street terracing.

Morton had battled hard and done well to contain the Parkhead side and go in one behind at half-time, but you could just sense that as the half wore on Celtic were beginning to get more comfortable as Zheng Zhi and Marc Crosas started to dictate the game. The goal was a big blow that the home side never really recovered from.

Celtic dominated the second period without really impressing. Colin Stewart did well to save from a stinging Samaras drive on the hour. In the 77th minute the big Greek bundled a Crosas corner into the net at the far post, but it was disallowed for handball. The replays on the Sportscene highlights proved inconclusive, as did my view in the Cowshed - so it is difficult to say whether this was the correct decision or not. However, I have my doubts. If you actually watch the goal again Ton goalkeeper Colin Stewart is looking right at Samaras as he pushes the ball into the net - but doesn't claim for handball, he actually accepts the goal and looks about to question the marking. It wouldn't be the first time Craig Thomson has used a phantom handball to disallow a goal as any Ton fan who was at New Douglas Park the day he cancelled out Chris Templeman's late equaliser will tell you.

Out-of-favour left-back Lee Naylor almost doubled Celtic's lead in the 86th minute, but his stunning right footed effort crashed back off the post and flew back out to safety.

Celtic had one more chance to score before the end but the woeful Fortuné demonstrated horrendous close control when the ball fell to him in the six yard box after Dom Shimmin inexplicably ducked under a cross from the right, and the ball rolled harmlessly into Stewart's arms. The French Guiana born player had a terrible night and remorseless Cowshed kicked him while he was down with a series of taunts including several references to Rangers' flop Filip Šebo: 'Are you Šebo in disguise', 'there's only two Filip Šebos' and 'Šebo, Šebo, Šebo'. There was also a rather loud chorus of 'What a waste of money' that can be distinctly heard on the BBC's match highlights.

In the end Celtic were pretty comfortable and deserved their win. Morton had battled well and managed to contain their opponents - but I can't help but feel that we didn't go for it as much as we should have. This Celtic team was as poor as I've seen in my lifetime, and if ever we had a chance to beat them this was it. At one down with ten minutes to go I'd love to have seen us go all out for a goal to earn a replay, but by then the players looked as if they'd given as much as they could. A 1-0 loss was nothing to be ashamed of and it felt great to see the stadium full again - I just hope that it won't be another ten years before we see another 10,000 plus crowd inside Cappielow.

Morton (4-4-2):

1. Colin Stewart - 7
2. Ryan McGuffie - 7
3. Alan Reid - 7
4. Dominic Shimmin - 8
5. Stewart Greacen - 8
6. Neil MacFarlane - 7 (15. Brian Graham - 88 mins)
7. Kevin Finlayson - 7
8. Allan Jenkins - 5
9. Peter Weatherson - 8
10. Brian Wake - 5 (14. Ryan Kane - 78 mins)
11. Jim McAlister - 6

Unused Subs:

12. Carlo Monti
16. David MacGregor
20. Kevin Cuthbert

Booked: Greacen, MacFarlane.

McGuffie Greacen Shimmin Reid
Finlayson MacFarlane Jenkins McAlister
Weatherson Wake


1. Artur Boruc - 7
2. Andreas Hinkel - 7
3. Lee Naylor - 7
9. Georgios Samaras - 8
10. Marc-Antoine Fortuné - 5
14. Niall McGinn - 8
17. Marc Crosas - 7
22. Glenn Loovens - 7
27. Zheng Zhi - 7
46. Aiden McGeady - 7
48. Darren O'Dea - 7

Unused Subs: 20. Paddy McCourt, 29.Koki Mizuno, 38. Josh Thompson, 49. James Forrest, 24. Łukasz Załuska.

Booked: Samaras

Hinkel Loovens O'Dea Naylor
Zhi Crosas McGeady
McGinn Fortuné Samaras

My man of the match: Dominic Shimmin

Sponsor's man of the match:

Matchday Programme (Click to enlarge)

Match Ticket

Greenock Telegraph - Match Report

Greenock Telegraph - Match Reaction

Scottish Sun - Match Report

celticfc.net - Match Report

bbc sport - Match Report

Sky Sports - Match Report

Tontastic Pictures

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