Arbroath vs Morton – Match Preview
by Dean McKinnon.
Morton head north to take on high-flying Arbroath as the curtain falls on the 2021/22 season. Dougie Imrie’s nineteenth game in charge will mark the end of a season in which the former Morton player’s impact cannot be understated. Imrie has hauled a Ton side seemingly doomed to relegation under the tutelage of Gus MacPherson to Championship survival with room to spare. The man who scored the Greenock side’s most famous goal of this millennia has had a rejuvenating effect on Greenock Morton that stretches far beyond the pitch, and will now begin planning next season’s assault on Scotland’s second tier.
Photo - GBR Photographs.
Question marks remain over Alan Lithgow’s fitness heading into the season’s encore. The veteran defender pulled up in the warmup before the 1-0 defeat to Hamilton and was absent in last week's defeat to Inverness. Lewis Strapp’s recovery from the knock sustained at Raith was a welcome addition to last week’s side. Dougie Imrie has suggested that there may be some experimentation in his squad for this fixture, so we may see the likes of McGrattan, McGregor, King and Hynes given a significant amount of game time.
Whilst nobody in the current Cappielow ranks has plied their trade in Arbroath, there are a few former Morton representatives in the Gayfield contingent. Our very own Jack Hamilton is the brother of Arbroath full back, Chris Hamilton. Luke Donnelly had an undistinguished loan spell at Cappielow whilst a young player at Celtic. Nicky Low is a well kent face in the Cowshed as a Morton fan himself.
Both Bobby Linn and Derek Gaston’s spells in Greenock resulted in a third tier title win. Linn penned a two-and-a-half-year deal for Jim McInally’s side in January 2007. Despite featuring regularly in the title winning side, he struggled to hit the net and found himself on the periphery of the squad the following season in the First Division. He would be loaned out to East Fife before being moved on.
Gaston’s stay in Inverclyde is slightly more memorable. He joined the Greenock side in the summer of 2012 and was a mainstay in Allan Moore’s title challenging season, followed by featuring less regularly the following season as The Ton plunged into League One. Gaston was to prove instrumental to the title win with a number of monumental saves as Jim Duffy led his side back to the Championship at the first time of asking. Gaston joined part time Arbroath in 2019, making forty-six appearances to date for Dick Campbell’s side.
Photo - GBR Photographs.
Tale of the Tape
Goals have been notoriously hard to come by in tussles between Morton and Arbroath in recent times. This trend was bucked earlier in the season as the sides shared the spoils following a 2-2 draw at Cappielow. Gary Oliver and Cammy Blues looked to have claimed a vital three points for the home side before some questionable officiating gave the Red Lichties a penalty in the 87th minute to claim a point.
Colin Hamilton scored his second goal of the season past brother Jack shortly after half-time in the second meeting of the sides in December. This match was marred by fog, to the point that supporters in the away end could not see Gary Oliver’s equaliser at the other side of the ground. Parity was, however, short lived as Anton Dowds’ goal in the 80th minute was to prove the winner as all three points stayed in Angus.
More normal service was resumed in February as both sides shared a point a piece at Cappielow following a 0-0 draw in which both teams could only muster a single shot on target.
It’s safe to say that Arbroath are currently riding on the crest of a wave. Despite falling to two late Kilmarnock goals in their title decider a week ago, the part-time side have secured a second-placed finish and will lock horns with a Championship counterpart for the right to take on a Premiership side for a place in the top flight next season. With the club on a sound financial footing, investment being made in the facilities in Gayfield, and a winning team on the park, it seems like Arbroath are going from strength-to-strength at present.
I spoke to former Arbroath TV commentator Ewan Smith (@ewansmithpr) ahead of Friday night’s curtain call, who underlined the home side’s ambitions despite losing out on automatic promotion – “Gayfield would have been packed to the gunnels for a title decider against Morton - had they held on for a famous win at Kilmarnock last week. But while the home crowd will still back Arbroath in significant numbers, the focus will now shift to the play-offs.
Arbroath will be determined to use this game as a springboard for their play-off semi-final against either Inverness, Partick or Raith. A win will give them momentum going into that game but they could also choose to give fringe players some valuable game time. The likes of Sam Ford - who hasn’t played since the 3-0 loss to Inverness in March - and Lichties legends Bobby Linn and Gavin Swankie could come into contention.
Arbroath may also choose to rest ex-Morton keeper Derek Gaston after he picked up an injury in the heart-breaking defeat to Killie. Dale Hilson is also likely to miss out after breaking his wrist but no matter who plays, Arbroath will still provide a stern task for Ton. They have had an outstanding season and have a host of new admirers after their stunning run to second place.
Jack Hamilton has netted five goals in six games and Greenock-based Nicky Low has been pulling the strings from midfield. Tam O’Brien and Michael McKenna have both earned PFA Player of the Year nominations and Arbroath have lost just five of their 35 league matches. A morale-boosting win over Morton would set Arbroath up nicely for their second shot at reaching the cinch Premiership and I’m backing them to win 2-1.”
Photo - GBR Photographs.
All match odds are provided by McBookie. Odds are correct as of 6am on 28th April 2022 and are subject to change. Please only bet within your means and visit BeGambleAware if you are struggling.
The hosts head into this match with the advantage, priced at 20/21 to best their Inverclyde counterparts, with the away side ranked at 14/5 to claim all three points, and 23/10 on the draw.
Given the two sides propensity for goalless affairs, 7/1 for a goalless stalemate looks to be an incredibly generous price. Gavin Reilly is a notable absence at the top of the goalscorer odds market. The Livi loanee is an impressive 10/1 to score first or 7/2 to score anytime.
Referee – Matthew MacDermid
AR1 – Andy Milne
AR2 – Colin Drummond