Morton vs Raith Rovers – Match Preview
by Russell Gordon.
Morton and Raith Rovers return to league duty at Cappielow in front of the BBC Scotland cameras tomorrow night after very different Scottish Cup experiences last weekend. Whilst Morton were heartbreakingly close to causing an upset against high flying Motherwell at Fir Park, the Fifers were easing through with the minimum of fuss against North Region Juniors, Banks O' Dee.
With restrictions lifted, there are no limits on the crowd that can realistically adversely affect the attendance, so again it looks like we're getting back to "normal". Although the game is on BBC Scotland, it's also available on Ton TV for anyone who would prefer to listen to Gerry and Andy's more informed musings for the princely sum of £7. Streams can also be purchased here.
Photo - GBR Photographs.
As has been the case in recent times, Dougie Imrie has benefitted from a relatively clean bill of health, and given the continuity in his selection in recent weeks, there are likely to be few questions as to how Morton line up- although with the return of Oisin McEntee, and with Robbie Muirhead's name again being added to the scoresheet after coming off the bench, the manager has some welcome decisions to make. Jamie Brandon will be hoping to continue in the right wing-back position, having been substituted in his two previous starts since arriving on loan from Hearts after a long-term injury.
There's only one player at each club who has represented their opponents- Raith right back Reghan Tumilty had a stop-start time of it during his two-year spell at Cappielow before opting to sign for newly promoted Raith in the summer of 2020, much to the dismay of many of the Morton support, who felt he wasn't given a fair chance under then Morton boss David Hopkin. Morton's talisman Gozie Ugwu spent last season in the kingdom, scoring 3 goals in 13 appearances. 'Ton Assistant Manager Andy Millen had a spell at Stark's in 1997.
Tale of the Tape
Anyone of a Morton disposition might want to skip to the next paragraph. We've not beaten Raith since February 2017, when a second half Lee Kilday header saw Morton come back down the road from Fife with maximum points. There was a 0-2 defeat in Kirkcaldy later that season before Raith's enforced three-season abeyance in League One. On their return, we've seen nothing but Raith Rovers victories, with three from three in last season's abridged league campaign, including a 5-0 mauling at Stark's Park, and two narrow defeats for Morton this term- 0-1 at Cappielow in September and 1-2 in Fife in November. Raith certainly appear to have an Indian Sign over us.
Photo - GBR Photographs.
On a more promising note, Raith haven't been firing in all cylinders in recent times, with only one league win, against title favourites Kilmarnock in the seven since they took the points against Morton in November. Admittedly Morton have only had two league wins since then, but at least they've been in our last two outings! An area of concern for the Fifers will be the drop off in form of Canadian striker Dario Zanatta, who was on fire in the first quarter of the campaign but has failed to find the net since notching the winner in that aforementioned victory over Killie.
I spoke to Raith Rovers fan, and A View From The Terrace (TheTerraceTV) panellist Shaughan McGuigan (@ShaughanM), who wasn't in the most optimistic of moods, given the two clubs' contrasting fortunes in recent weeks.
"As much as Raith Rovers appear to have something of a hex over Morton, with six straight wins in the last half dozen meetings, you'll struggle to find too many Rovers fans who are confident about making it seven.
The team appears to have fallen off the rails in the last few weeks, and while it's probably down to a few reasons rather than a single issue, that means it feels even trickier for the team to turn things around.
The injury which Brad Spencer received at Gayfield back in December certainly didn't help, as no-one else in the squad is quite as adept at taking the ball from the back four and breaking through the opponents' lines, but that's also coincided with a handful of forward players seeing their form fall off a cliff.
Dario Zanatta had no issue in tormenting Championship defences and pinging them in from 25 yards every week at the start of the season, but he now appears devoid of confidence, likewise Ethan Ross, who has been unable to recapture the form which saw him score five goals in as many games after his move from Aberdeen.
Raith's travails are of course coinciding with Morton's form picking up, which makes this game feel like it's perfect timing for them, and less than ideal for ourselves.
Of course, the nature of football is such that Rovers form could inexplicably turnaround on Friday night and they'll kick on and potentially challenge for a promotion spot, but there's a real feeling that the season might fizzle out from here. This match might go some way to telling us which side from the two can most look forward to the remainder of the campaign."
Photo - GBR Photographs.
All odds are supplied by McBookie. All odds correct as of 7am on 28th January 2022 and are subject to change. Please only bet within your means and visit BeGambleAware if you are struggling.
The hosts go in as underdogs at 21/10, with Raith priced at 5/4 and the draw 11/5, which might be a decent bet given how the teams' are looking much better matched than earlier in the season. Given his form for coming off the bench and bagging a goal, Robbie Muirhead is 15/2 to score the last goal of the game. Given that I've tempted fate by alluding to Dario Zanatta's drop off in form in recent weeks, the pessimist in me would point to 5/2 for Zanatta to score anytime.
Referee- David Dickinson
AR 1- David McGeachie
AR 2- Graham McNellie
Fourth Official- Steven Reid