After back to back wins, Morton and their support were on a high heading into this match. A match which would see them come up against a very hard-working, tactically solid Raith Rovers side.
The last time the two sides met at Cappielow, it was the men from the ‘Tale o’ the bank’ who gained all three points after a fantastic strike from midfielder Stephen Stirling and today would follow along the same lines as the hosts remained top of the table by full-time.
If Morton didn’t have enough previous First Division winners in their squad, they most certainly do now after agreeing terms with goal machine, Colin McMenamin from Ross County. The most surprising news with relation to the deal however, was that local bus company, McGills, had sponsored the player and have agreed to pay the wages of the 31-year-old who won the First Division title previously with The Staggies.
As for the game, Allan Moore fielded an unchanged side that saw his side battle out three points against Livingston a week previous, with Peter MacDonald leading the line for the hosts. New signing McMenamin found himself on the bench alongside potential strike partner, Peter Weatherson. As for the visitors, they continued to employ ex Greenock Morton striker, Brian Graham, as the target man, with the travelling support hoping for him to add to his ever-growing goal tally.
As Morton got the game underway, attacking the Sinclair Street End, despite controlling the early possession, were unable to really create any sort of chance. Both teams were struggling to find their feet on this cold winters day but it would be the visitors from Fife who would have the first real goal threat. After picking up the ball in their own half, the Fifers quickly broke and Pat Clarke eventually found himself with a great chance to put the ball home from the left hand side of the box. However, the striker didn’t deliver the killer blow, as Gaston saved the hosts from falling behind. The alarm bells were ringing early on for Morton.
As the first half continued, both sides really struggled to even test the opposition goalkeeper. Morton, in one of their very few meaningful attacks, had a reasonable claim for a penalty when David O’Brien rounded the Rovers defender before being clattered by Mensing who, in fairness, did seem to win the ball in the process. Gaston had to be on his guard, yet again, eight minutes from the interval after Walker connected beautifully with an in-swinging ball to deliver a scissor kick towards goal – however it was never going to trouble the Morton number one. The biggest chance of the half however, came minutes before the interval when central defender, Kevin Rutkiewicz misplaced a back pass, allowing Brian Graham to pounce on the loose ball. Despite this major mistake from the veteran defender. He was let off the hook thanks to Morton shot-stopper, Derek Gaston, who done fantastically well to turn the ball behind for a corner.
As the second half got underway, it was clear that the game was in desperate need of a goal. David Graham would make way for Colin McMenamin in the hope that the new signing could breathe some life into the home side. However, it would be Morton playmaker, Michael Tidser, who would answer that goal. As Rovers defender, Simon Mensing, failed to clear the in-swinging cross properly, Martin Hardie laid the ball off perfectly for Tidser to rifle the ball into the bottom left hand corner of the net, leaving ex’ Ton goalkeeper, McGurn with no chance. A huge sigh of relief from the Cowshed as Morton found themselves a goal to the good and on their way to another huge three points.
This set-back did seem to kick the visitors into life though, and Pat Clarke would yet again find himself in the middle of the action. Only three minutes after the restart, a great cut back left Brian Graham with the simple task of placing the ball home however, by trying to break the net, he sent the ball wide. Pat Clarke thought he had finally equalised for the Fifers after meeting an in-swinging free kick however, Gaston done fantastically well to get down to his right and parry the ball away.
The tension was building as the visitors were getting closer and closer to their, some would argue, deserved equaliser. The Greenock men, however, had found themselves in this situation on many occasions so far this season, and along with the experienced heads of McLaughlin and Hardie, it was no surprise that Morton would see out yet another win in front of their delighted fans.
As news came though that close rivals, Dunfermline had slipped up to Livingston, you could say that the once ‘three horse race’ has now be reduced to just two. However, it would be foolish to rule out a team, lead at the helm by Jim Jefferies, with still fifteen games to go, despite the nine-point gap. With another win to their name, making them the only team in British football to be undefeated away from this season, the question remains: is this going to be Greenock Morton’s year?
The Morton manager wasn’t thinking so far ahead, however. He was just happy with another three points, Moore said: “If it’s workmanlike and we’re getting three points, we’ll take that every week from here till the end of the season.”
And Moore was first to credit the wonderful strike by midfield maestro, Michael Tidser, he added: “It was a great goal. It’s something we’ve been telling Michael to do more often. It was a good knock back from Hardie and he put it straight in the corner and that gave us a little boost because, in all fairness, I felt Raith were the better team today.”
Raith gaffer, Grant Murray, was happy with his side’s performance despite the end result: “To come here and the create the amount of chances that we did today was a pleasing and positive factor but, we knew it was going to be a difficult place to come to – it always is coming here. We were playing a very confident Morton team who are sitting top of the league at this moment in time so, for as well as we played, we come away with no points today.”
Morton: Gaston, Taggart, Rutkiewicz (Dyer 79), Mark McLaughlin, Reid, Bachirou, Hardie, Tidser, Graham (McMenamin 46), MacDonald (Weatherson 74), O’Brien.
Subs not used: Hutton, Wilkie.
Raith: McGurn, Thomson, Mensing, Ellis, Malone, Smith, Walker, Stuart Anderson (Spence 75), Hamill, Graham, Clarke.
Subs Not Used: Laidlaw, Callachan, Vaughan, Donaldson.