Morton 2 - 1 Ayr United

Morton 2 - Greacen (77), Monti (86)
Ayr United 1
- McKay (20)

Att: 3,771

The Full Monti: Carlo Monti side footed home a late winner to relegate Ayr United and ensure that Morton would avoid the play-offs and automatic relegation.

As expected, Michael Tidser returned to the starting eleven in place of Allan Jenkins after James Grady took the decision to rest him for the trip north to play Ross County last Monday. Erik Paartalu replaced Neil MacFarlane and there was a surprise when Kevin McKinlay took Davie MacGregor's place at left-back as the former Partick Thistle man was thought to be ruled out for the rest of the season through injury.

Morton were absolutely awful in a first half that brought one chance in the first 45 minutes - a weak Kevin Finlayson header that Ayr goalkeeper Craig Samson caught with ease in the third minute. The defence were all over the place, the midfield could hardly find a blue and white hooped shirt with a pass and up front we lacked a cutting edge as Donovan Simmonds floated around on the periphery of the game.

And it was from one of those defensive mix ups that the Honest Men took the lead in the 19th minute. Stewart Greacen, Michael Tidser and Erik Paartalu were all involved in a mix up from which no one really managed to clear the ball and Daniel McKay, who is on loan from their big rivals Kilmarnock, picked the ball up and sent a stunning right foot short hurtling past Colin Stewart in to his top right hand corner.

Former Morton player Dean Keenan almost doubled the lead in the 37th minute but his volley flew past the upright after he'd collected Daniel Lafferty's quick thrown from the stand side.

Ayr were flying at this point and should've put the game beyond doubt four minutes from half-time when Kevin Finlayson panicked in possession of the ball and blasted his clearance against Greacen on the edge of his own box. The ball fell invitingly for former St. Mirren attacker Junior Mendes but the Montserrat international was denied when Stewart flew across goal to push his shot behind for a corner.

Morton were lucky to go in to the interval one down and the fans vented their fury by booing the home side off the field.

A criticism that has been levelled at James Grady is that he is overly cautious when it comes to his substitutions. So his decision to replace Erik Paartalu with Allan Jenkins at half-time tells its own story. This was the big Australian's last game for Morton before returning home to play for Brisbane Roar - and he had a bit of a nightmare. Erik is a confidence player, a couple of mistakes early in a match usually mean that he will go on to have a poor 90 minutes as his confidence continues to dip. And on Saturday a few misplaced early passes meant that was exactly what happened. To his credit, Erik never hides and still tries to give his all but his nervousness was starting to trasmit to his team mates and I believe Grady had to sub him off to give his team a chance of getting back into this match.

And his replacement almost made an immediate impact three minutes into the second half but Jenkins was inches away from sliding in Carlo Monti's intelligent angled cross in behind the Ayr United defence.

Morton were starting to get back in the game in the second half, however, Ayr were still the side creating the more clear cut chances. In the 58 minute, Keenan whipped over an inswinging corner that everyone missed leaving Ryan McGowan with what looked like an easy tap in at the back post, but Ton number one Stewart flung himself to the ground to make an astonishing block with his right foot. Then, ten minutes later, it was fellow defender Martyn Campbell's turn to pass up a glorious chance when the big central defender volleyed wide when he looked certain to score.

However Ayr were made to pay for their missed opportunities when Morton equalised in the 77th minute. Ayr custodian Samson flapped at a high ball (claiming in the press that he was fouled) and Greacen was on hand to stick out a left leg and force the ball into the empty net via the post.

Ayr passed up another amazing chance when a Mendes cross from out at the Cowshed dropped in behind the Ton defence but an Ayr attacker, possibly McKay, was not expecting the ball to fall to him and he could only shin the ball across the face of goal and wide.

With just four minutes of the season remaining, young Monti broke Ayr's hearts when he demonstrated superb technique to meet Finlayson's low cross at an angle and send a first time side footed shot into Samson's bottom right hand corner. A goal that put a rubber stamp on Ayr's relegation and ensured that the Ton would avoid both relegation and the play-offs.

A win is a win, especially in a crucial relegation six pointer, but the performance will be of grave concern to Grady. The 39-year-old is certain to be in charge next season and there will need to be a massive clear out if he wants to be challenging at the right end of the table next season. Fortunately, I think he knows that himself and, in players like Michael Tidser, David Witteveen and David van Zanten, he has already proven that he has a good eye for a player. Roll on an exciting summer of wheeling and dealing in the transfer market.

Morton (4-4-2):

1. Colin Stewart - 8
2. Ryan McGuffie - 7
3. Kevin McKinlay - 6
4. Dominic Shimmin - 7
5. Stewart Greacen (c) - 6
6. Erik Paartalu - 4 (14. Jenkins - 46 mins - 7)
7. Kevin Finlayson - 7
8. Michael Tidser - 6
9. Donovan Simmonds - 5 (12. Graham - 72 mins)
10. David Witteveen - 6
11. Carlo Monti - 6

Unused Subs:

15. David MacGregor
16. Alan Reid
20. Kevin Cuthbert

Booked: Greacen, Monti.

McGuffie Greacen Shimmin McKinlay
Finlayson Paartalu Tidser Monti
Witteveen Simmonds

Ayr United: Craig Samson; Ryan McGowan, Bily Gibson, Martyn Campbell, Daniel Lafferty; Alistair Woodburn (Aaron Connolly, 78), Dean Keenan, Steve Bowey, Mark Roberts; Junior Mendes, Daniel McKay

Unused Subs: Jonathon Tiffoney, Ross Robertson, Roddy Paterson, Stephen Grindlay (GK).

Booked: Gibson, Connolly, Lafferty, Roberts.

My man of the match: Colin Stewart

Sponsor's man of the match: Colin Stewart

Matchday Programme (Click to enlarge)

Greenock Telegraph - Match Report

Scottish Sun - Match Report

bbc sport - Match Report

Tontastic Photographs

1 comment:

mortonjag said...

Roll on an exciting summer of wheeling and dealing in the transfer market.

That will indeed be a very welcome first under the present Chairman!