Morton got their title chase back on track after out playing Scottish Cup semi-finalist, Falkirk at Cappielow Park. The ‘Ton were heading into this game off the back of a defeat to Hamilton Academical the previous Tuesday – their first league defeat away from home all season – while The Bairns secured their date with Hampden after beating Hamilton. The two sides headed into this vital game with very different attitudes, but this wasn’t portrayed on the pitch.
Allan Moore had made three changes to the side that lost to Hamilton, with William Dyer (who dislocated his shoulder after falling awkwardly in the defeat), Colin McMenamin and David Graham all dropping out with Peter MacDonald, Craig Reid and Archie Campbell all coming in, after recovering from their respected injuries.
As for Falkirk, the main threat they possessed, as ever, was prolific goal scorer Lyle Taylor who has rattled in an incredible 20 goals so far this season. In addition to that, Blair Alston, who was the hero with an impressive double in the Scottish Cup a week previous to this, was also a player the Morton defence would have to deal with. And deal with them they did.
As Morton legend Roy Bains and Alan McGraw were introduced to the crowd, the players took to the field and prepared to do battle with three vital points at stake. In a fairly uneventful opening 20 minutes, Falkirk found space after a great in-swinging ball from the left hand side but the prolific striker failed to connect with the cross. This early chance proved the quickness and movement Taylor possessed and something the ‘Ton defence would have to deal with.
Despite that mediocre chance, it was Morton who were controlling the earlier exchanges and Michael Tidser, in particular, was controlling the pace of the game. The first goalmouth chance the hosts had was after Kevin Rutkiewicz connected well from a Tidser corner, however his header was always on the rise as it floated over the bar. Bachirou was up next to test McGovern after Tidser found the midfielder in space on the right hand side of the box. The Frenchmen got his shot away but the Falkirk shot stopper was equal to it.
The chemistry between Michael Tidser and Fouad Bachirou has been something that has helped Morton to the position they currently find themselves in [top of the league], and that was evident for Tidser’s chance on the half hour mark. After numerous one-two’s between the pair, the captain tried to curl one into the bottom left hand corner but the shot just sneaked wide of the post. After Thomas O’Ware’s header was easily saved by McGovern yet again, Morton would finally break the deadlock.
After a good Morton opportunity began to fade, a hopeful ball was played through by O’Ware towards the Bairns defence. Morton striker, Archie Campbell turned and tried to pounce on the loose ball. With the Falkirk defence not dealing with it immediately, it allowed Campbell to use his upper strength to win the ball and hammer passed the keeper from six yards out. The hosts had struck first blood. This goal would kick the young striker, who had scored eleven goals in eleven starts previous to this, into life. He would be presented with another chance soon after, albeit a much more difficult one, when MacDonald played a lofty ball over the defence which Campbell had to connect with on the half volley. As the ball sneaked just wide, there was a real sense that the Morton players were really starting to find their stride.
Campbell, once again, chased down a through ball and attacked the goal from the right hand side of the field, but his shot was saved after he unleashed a strike from a difficult angle. The visitors did show some sign of danger on the break however, as a mix up in the defence allowed Blair Alston to sneak through, but his attempted lob not only lobbed the keeper, but also the empty goal. Peter MacDonald would make the visitors pay for this miss only a few minutes later by doubling the ‘Ton’s lead. Captain fantastic, Michael Tidser swung in another inch perfect ball from the left hand side, onto the head of the unmarked MacDonald who headed the ball across the face of the goal and into the net. The hosts now found themselves two goals to the good without really getting out of second gear.
As the referee blew for half time, Morton were well on the way to three points.
The second half would follow the same pattern as the first, with Morton completely controlling their opponents. Falkirk did try to counter the dominance of the hosts by introducing Sean Higgins to the field of play, with Thomas Grant making way. However, this wouldn’t change anything as Morton continued to create all the chances and keep all the possession. The scorer of Morton’s second goal, Peter MacDonald, mustered a half chance when he connected with a shot on the half volley but unfortunately it had a better chance of reaching Largs than the back of the net.
With Morton making a number of changes, with Campbell and Hardie being replaced by McMenamin and Wilkie, the confidence and strength in-depth within the side was there for all to see.
The only other shot on goal in the second half would be from the hosts, yet again. However, Martin Hardie’s low drive from 20 yards out was never going to trouble the reliable McGovern. As the boys from the ‘Tale o’ the Bank’ began to knock the ball around with no real pressure, Calum Murray blew for full-time, bringing a very one-sided game to a close. Morton continue their march for the title and maintain their two point gap over closest rivals, Patrick Thistle, who cruised to a 3-0 victory at home
Falkirk’s interim manager, Alex Smith, after he match said: “We have not only just lost a manager for this game: we’ve also lost three centre halves through injury too, so we had to play young fullbacks at centre back and that was never going to be easy against a team of Morton’s calibre.
Morton assistant manager, Mark McNally, was delighted with the response of his players, he said: “Alan and I were delighted with the three points today. It was important that we bounced back after the midweek defeat at Hamilton but that was a good day for us today.
“First forty-five minutes today, we were excellent. There will be twists and turns – we have nine games to play now and we still have everyone to play, so we’re just concentrating on trying to pick up as many points as possible.”
Morton: Gaston, Taggart, Rutkiewicz, Reid, O’Ware, Hardie (Wilkie 81), Tidser, Bachirou, O’Brien, MacDonald, Campbell (McMenamin 75)
Subs Not Used: Hutton, Weatherson, Halsmen.
Falkirk: Falkirk: McGovern, Duffie, Vaulks, Kingsley, Dick, Murdoch, Jay Fulton (McGrandles 70), Weatherston (Small 84), Alston, Grant (Higgins 60), Taylor.
Subs Not Used: Bowman, Sibbald.