Morton kicked off their busy pre-season schedule with a home tie against League 1 side, Sheffield United. The last time The Blades visited Cappielow Park, they had just earned their place in the Barclays Premier League. On this occasion however, they were preparing for their third consecutive season in the third tier of English football.
The First Division outfit headed into this match with a very different team from that of the team who left the field of play at The Falkirk Stadium last May. With numerous players such as Martin Hardie, Craig Reid, William Dyer, Peter MacDonald, Michael Tidser, David Graham and Declan McDaid all leaving the club, manager, Allan Moore has had a very difficult job on his hands, trying and assemble a competent squad for the season ahead.
Moore – who is heading into his third season in charge of Morton – fielded six trialists from the start; two of those [Michal Habai and Thomas Kamenca] being brought in by the coaching staff after a scouting trip to Slovakia. Along with French trialist, Nicolas Caraux, Japanese midfielder, Ryan Hirooka, and experienced First Division players such as James Creaney and Dale Fulton, Sheffield United got the game underway.
It’s well known that pre-season matches are not about the end result – more about building up the fitness of the players, and that’s exactly what newly appointed manager, Davie Weir, would have been looking for during this encounter. Without threatening the ‘Ton goal, it was the League 1 outfit who were controlling the early possession. However, it was Morton who were presented with the first opportunity of the match. After being awarded a free-kick on the right hand side of the area, a dangerous ball was swung in towards the back post. Despite David O’Brien doing well to knock the ball back across goal, Howard was out fasted to clear the ball to safety.
Despite the hosts creating the first half chance, it was most definitely the visitors who were settling into the game more easily. Full-back, Marcus Williams made a bombing run down the left hand side, beating trialist Ryan Hirooka far too easily in the process, before earning his side a corner as the tension slowly increased. As expected though, the corner came to nothing and the Morton defence – led my Mark McLaughlin – cleared the ball to safety.
Slovakian trialist, Michal Habai, nearly sent the hosts into the lead on the half hour mark after reaching a Kamenca corner from the right hand side. Sadly though, his header was always rising and had a better chance of reaching Port Glasgow, rather than the United goal. It was the two Slovakians who were creating most of the moves and chances for the hosts. This time Thomas Kamenca delivered some excellent skill to outwit three Sheffield players before earning his side a corner.
The best opportunity of the half however came in the dying minutes. David O’Brien done well to latch onto an excellent through ball by Kamenca, but as he played the ball onto Hirooka, the official on the far side blew for offside. A huge opportunity blown by Morton as the opening half came to a close.
Manager Allan Moore tried to freshen things up for the start of the second half by introducing new signing, Joseph McKee, ex-Tottenham youth player, Sam Cox and Slovakian trialist, Thomas Peciar and Robbie Crawford to the field of play. And the substitutions seemed to have an impact on the squad straight away. For the first time in the game, it was Morton who was starting to take control of the match, with Bachirou being the heart and centre of every ‘Ton attack.
With little chances being created despite Morton having a large share of the possession, two new faces were introduced: Jonathan Page and Tony Wallace, who came on for Thomas Habai and Archie Campbell. Despite even more fresh faces for the ‘Ton, it was Sheffield United who carved out the best chance of the game. After some neat footwork in the middle of the park, Chris Porter found himself one-on-one with French trialist, Noclas Caraux. It would be the tall shot stopper who would win the battle of wits on this occasion though, as he stood tall and stopped the strike which looked destined to ripple the hosts net.
David O’Brien pushed the blue and white hoops forward and nearly set up the opening goal of the game. After battling through into the box from the left hand side, he laid the ball back to substitute Tony Wallace who blasted the ball over the bar. Joe McKee would be next to threaten the visitors goal, but his shot from just outside the box sneaked inches wide of the post.
Morton would be punished for missing these opportunities however, after the referee pointed to the spot, twenty minutes from time. Sam Cox was caught wrong side of Chris Porter and, as a result of this, brought the 25-year-old down. As soft as it may have been, the full-back had little complaints about the penalty being awarded. Porter took the honours himself and sent Caraux the wrong way. United had finally made the breakthrough in a fairly uneventful match at Cappielow.
Morton did respond reasonably well from this set-back though and trialist David Crawford nearly pegged back the English side straight away. After unleashing a stunning strike from just inside the box, Mark Howard somehow got his hand to the ball and tipped it over the bar for a corner.
That would be the final piece of action in what was fairly dull encounter, meaning that ex-Scotland internationalist, Davie Weir, had recorded his first victory as manager of The Blades. As soon as this came was concluded, social media sites were quick to announce that Allan Moore had secured the services of ex-Lens goalkeeper, Nicolas Caraux, who featured in goal for the hosts that evening.
Another player added to a squad that is determined to have another title push this season.