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Match Preview - Kilmarnock vs Morton (29th December)


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Kilmarnock vs Morton – Match Preview

by Dean McKinnon.

Following the postponement of Saturday’s Boxing Day fixture against Queen of the South, Dougie Imrie’s managerial career will now commence at Rugby Park. Imrie, stepping away from his role as Head of Youth Development, has spoken assertively about the improvements that are needed if The Ton are to remain in the Championship this season.

Morton v Killie (42 of 157).jpg

Photo - GBR Photographs.

Squad Update

With the January transfer window due to open imminently, The Ton could be set to lose midfielder Jaakko Oksanen to his parent club, Brentford. There was some cause for optimism for long-term absentee Brian McLean, as photos taken by GBR Photographs last week showed the veteran defender back in training.  Loanee Oisin McEntee would be a welcomed return to the backline, with his fellow loanee Tom Allan now back in the fold.

Current Connections

Robbie Muirhead came through the Kilmarnock youth system. Muirhead, who was born in Irvine, graduated to the first team set-up at Rugby Park in 2013. Former Morton manager Kenny Shiels gave Muirhead his professional debut for Kilmarnock in a 3-1 loss to St Mirren. This turned out to be Shiels’ last match as Kilmarnock boss. Muirhead remained in the Ayrshire side’s first team until January 2015, when he moved to Dundee United. He scored four goals in forty-two league appearances in his time at Kilmarnock.

Jason Naismith signed for Kilmarnock in the summer after his release from Premiership side Ross County. Naismith spent six months on loan at Morton in 2012 from parent club St Mirren, marking the first time in history that a player had been loaned between the two rival clubs. After making only seven appearances for The Ton, he returned to Paisley before being sent on loan to Cowdenbeath to complete the season.

Stephen McGinn spent the tail end of last season on loan at Sinclair Street. Gus MacPherson utilised the positive relationship he had with the player and convinced him from Hibernian. Debuting away to Dunfermline, McGinn went on to make eight league appearances, including both legs of the playoff final victory against Airdrieonians.

Morton v Killie (156 of 157).jpg

Photo - GBR Photographs.

Tale of the Tape

Kilmarnock recorded a comfortable 2-0 win over Morton at Cappielow on Matchday 14. Gus MacPherson’s side bested the early exchanges but struggled to penetrate the sturdy home defence. Former Scotland international Chris Burke utilised his experience and class, and was at the heart of both his side’s first half goals. Burke worked space to cross to the back post and Blair Alston had advanced to control and prod the ball past Jack Hamilton in the 33rd minute. This gave the visitors a clear boost and they doubled their lead on the brink of half time. Burke again interchanged to kickstart the move and he played the ball perfectly for Oli Shaw to sweep home past Hamilton.

Morton’s first league meeting with Kilmarnock since 1992/93 took place on Matchday 5 at Rugby Park. Kilmarnock controlled large parts of the match, dominating in possession and territory, but struggled to find a way past the stubborn Morton defence. Tommy Wright’s side stuck to their task, retaining the ball and making The Ton defend for large spells of the match. The home side made the breakthrough in the 75th minute, with a deep cross from Kilmarnock left back Brandon Haunstrup being riled into the roof of the net by Rory McKenzie, who had escaped the attentions of Lewis Strapp at the back post. Despite having a few flashes across goal and a couple of chances on the counter attack, few in the Morton ranks could argue that they deserved to take something from the match.

Morton’s ill-fated League Cup campaign this season featured a trip to Rugby Park. Morton opened the scoring in the sixteenth minute as teenager Lewis McGregor cut inside onto his right foot and curled the ball into the far corner from the edge of the box, grasping his first-team opportunity with both hands. Morton tired late on, with former Morton loanee Jason Naismith’s delivery into the box being pushed towards Kyle Connell who equalised in the first minute of injury time. Tommy Wright’s side went on to win on penalties and progress from the group.

Morton’s last win against Kilmarnock came once again in the League Cup, this time in Morton’s successful 2016/17 season. Gary Oliver and Jai Quitongo goals sealed an excellent win for Jim Duffy’s side en route to a League Cup Semi Final appearance for the first time in thirty-five years. You can read our ‘Where Are They Now?’ article for the 2016/17 semi-final squad here.

Opposition Analysis

Despite strong away form early in the season, losing only two contests on the road this term, Kilmarnock are currently sitting 4th in the Championship, five points behind part-time Arbroath. Having aimed for an immediate return to the Premiership, Killie’s record this season has been marred by home league defeats to Inverness, Raith Rovers, Partick Thistle and Arbroath. 

The Ayrshire side sacked manager Tommy Wright on 18th December following their match against Dunfermline being abandoned due to fog, the Ayrshire side are yet to appoint a permanent successor. James Fowler, who has a permanent role as Head of Football Operations with Kilmarnock, is currently serving as the club’s interim manager until a permanent replacement is appointed.  

Morton v Killie (112 of 157).jpg

Photo - GBR Photographs.

Betting Guide

All odds are provided by McBookie. Odds are correct as of 3pm on 28th December 2021 and are subject to change. Please only bet within your means and visit BeGambleAware if you are struggling.

The home side are heavy favourites, priced at 8/13 to best Morton. Killie to win with both teams scoring is 14/5, with the Ayrshire side 6/4 to win to nil. If you fancy a comfortable home win then 19/10 is your reward if you back Kilmarnock on a -1 handicap.

The draw prices at 13/5, with 9/1 offered for a 0-0 stalemate. Dougie Imrie’s side are 4/1 to leave Rugby Park with all three points. The Ton to win at BTTS is 9/1, with 7/1 offered on a Morton win and Jack Hamilton clean sheet. If you fancy the away side to mirror their 2-0 League Cup win from 2016, you can back a -1 handicap at 12/1.

Match Officials

Referee – Chris Graham

AR1 – Ralph Gordon

AR2 – Calum Doyle

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