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Morton Blog: Old heads get the better of spirited youths

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In his first Fan blog, Morton supporter Andrew Ward reports on the weekend SFL match between Falkirk and Greenock Morton, which saw the Cappielow side edge their hosts 1-0 at the Falkirk Stadium.

Falkirk 0-1 Greenock Morton

Many supporters were beginning to question whether Morton had the ‘bottle’ to maintain a title push. After a thumping defeat off bottom club, Dumbarton and a draw away to lowly placed Cowdenbeath, many supporters were asking whether Morton had only gone through a purple patch during the Christmas period, but the eleven players that took to the field yesterday put many of those doubts to bed.

Trips to The Falkirk Stadium over the years haven’t ended to well for the blue and white hoops however, with back to back victories it means the tables may have finally turned for the better.

The Greenock side, managed by ex-Stirling Albion manager, Allan Moore, had made three changes from the side that drew 1-1 away to Cowdenbeath. Veteran defender Mark McLaughlin, ex-Dunfermline midfielder’s Martin Hardie and David Graham came back into the squad while Tony Wallace, Scott Taggart and Peter Weatherson took to the bench.

As for Falkirk, there was the incredible statistic that out of the starting eleven, only goalkeeper Michael McGovern was over the age of twenty – with nine of the of the eleven players coming through the youth system. It has to be said, even from a Morton fans perspective, not only does Bairns boss Steven Pressley deserve a lot of credit for having so much faith in a young, inexperienced side but also to the youth coaches at the club for developing so many excellent young players.

As for the game, in a fairly uneventful first ten minutes both teams found themselves struggling to find their feet with quite a number of loose passes bobbling out for throw-in. The early signs suggested that it would be Falkirk’s number nine and top goalscorer, Lyle Taylor who would be the main threat for the host’s. Mark McLaughlin, accompanied by Mark Rutkiewicz in defence, would have to use all of his experience to deal with the quick striker who had rattled in an incredible seventeen goals so far in his short Falkirk career.

Taylor was presented with his first chance of the game when right-sided midfielder comfortably took the ball by William Dyer before delivering a low ball across the box which would be met by the foot of talismanic striker, but it was never worrying Gaston as it went wide.

Despite Falkirk having the first real chance of the game, it was the visitors who were controlling most of the possession. With all the possession early on, the Greenock side carved out their first chance of the match when lone striker Peter MacDonald forced a good save out of Michael McGovern.

Morton continued to pass the ball around with relative ease however; they were still not creating many clear-cut chances. Peter MacDonald, yet again, met an in-swinging ball from the right hand side but he failed to hit the target. Falkirk, at this stage, were beginning to find their feet and the young Bairns would be first to put the ball in the back of the net.

After being awarded a free-kick on the edge of the right side of the penalty area, a fantastic in swinging ball was met by central midfielder Connor McGrandles. As my head fell into the hands, the travelling support delivered a huge roar as the goal was disallowed. Even now, I’m still not exactly sure what it was for however, I can only imagine it was for being in an offside position when the ball was played into the box. A major let off for The ‘Ton.

As the first half came to a close, the supporters who had made their way to The Falkirk Stadium could argue that their side should be ahead but as the referee blew the whistle, the game was still goalless.

The second half saw the Bairns come flying out the traps and they really began to take the game to the visitors. Thomas Grant, who has only made ten appearances for the first team and is another player to have come through the youth system, rifled a free-kick towards the left hand corner of the goal, for it only to be saved by the finger tips of Morton shot stopper, Derek Gaston.

As the pace of the game began to slow down, it was clear that the game was severely lacking a goal but Martin Hardie, who is more formally known as Big Mad Mental Martin Hardie (BMMMH) to both Morton and Dunfermline supporters, would answer that call.

With the Greenock side being unable to really take control of the game the same way they had done in the first forty-five, they would fire themselves into the lead. After a high ball was played into the box, Hardie held off the Falkirk defender to allow the ball to fall right in front of him – he steadied himself before unleashing an unstoppable shot from six yards, leaving McGovern with absolutely no chance.

The travelling support erupted as the ball hit the back of the net: they could now firmly believe that they could be on for another three points.

However, before the Morton support could dream of being top of the league for the second time in a month, they would have to endure a nervous twenty-six minutes of action. This goal signalled a flurry of substitutions for both sides; Peter MacDonald and David Graham made way for Morton legend Peter Weatherson and summer signing Kyle Wilkie, while Falkirk brought off Fulton and Grant, replacing them with Small and Higgins, to try to add some fresh impetus to the Bairns attack.

However, despite the substitutions, it would be Morton who would begin to take control of the game and in the end, see the game out fairly comfortably.

But the last chance of the game would be for Falkirk. With quite some time being taken over the free-kick, it never even troubled Gaston as it went flying over the bar.

As the final whistle blew, a huge cheer erupted from the North Stand as the news filtered through that Morton’s closest rivals had both been beaten. With all results taken into consideration, the team from ‘The Tale o’ the Bank’ found themselves three points clear of financially stricken Dunfermline and five points clear of early favourites, Partick Thistle.

Allan Moore was first to credit the performance of Falkirk: “Stephen said he was going to field a young team, who I thought done exceptionally well. I went with the most experience team I could get cause I felt that would get us through it.

“There wasn’t many chances for either team to be honest. We had a wee scare in the first half when the goal was shopped off but I think the boy was offside.”

When asked about the deciding goal of the game, Moore stated: “It looked like one of those games were the first goal was going to win it and thankfully it was us who got it.”

As for Bairns boss, Steven Pressley was happy with the performance of his players: “I’m not disappointed with the performance, just disappointed with the result.

“I thought our performance was excellent today. I mean, we have dominated a side at the top of the league, filled with experience players, and our squad full of young guys, to play in the manner they did, really is a testament to themselves.”

Falkirk: McGovern, Duffie, McGeever, Kingsley, L.Dick, Dale Fulton (Small 80), McGrandles, Grant (Higgins 68), Alston, Jay Fulton, Taylor.

Subs Not Used: Bowman, Rowan, Leahy.

Morton: Gaston, Reid, Rutkiewicz, Mark McLaughlin, Dyer, Bachirou, Hardie, Tidser, Graham (Wilkie 83), MacDonald (Weatherson 78), O’Brien.

Subs Not Used: Hutton, Taggart, Wallace.

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