Ayr United vs Morton – Match Preview
by Dean McKinnon.
Dougie Imrie’s Morton side travel to Somerset Park on Saturday looking to make club history, as The Ton aim to play five matches without conceding a goal. The history books show that in 2016, the team went four matches with consecutive clean sheets, although these were matches against lower-league opposition in the League Cup group stages. You have to go all the way back to 2006/07 for the last time Morton kept five consecutive clean sheets in the league, albeit this was in the third-tier. Dougie Imrie’s side are in fact trying to best a record, of five consecutive clean sheets in the league, set in the second tier all the way back in April 1996.
Photo - GBR Photographs.
The squad was boosted by the arrival of the former Morton fans’ Player of the Year Efe Ambrose, who slotted straight into the back four in place of Carlo Pigniatello. Darragh O’Connor, who is currently out of action with a hand injury, joins fellow centre-back Alan Lithgow on the treatment table, who looks to be a while away from competitive action. Doubt remains over second-choice goalkeeper Lawton Green, who missed the last two weeks with a finger injury.
Former Morton skipper Sean McGinty joined Ayr last summer, although has struggled for minutes under manager Lee Bullen, as has former Ton custodian Aidan McAdams, who also followed former Morton manager David Hopkin down the coast last off-season. Fans’ favourite Andy Murdoch spent two years on Sinclair Street before being infamously released by a newly-appointed Ray McKinnon.
Hard-working midfielder Robbie Crawford graduated from Ayr United’s youth academy into the first team in 2012. The Irvine-born midfielder went onto make 226 competitive appearances for The Honest Men before joining Livingston in 2019. Skipper Grant Gillespie joined Ayr in January 2020, making four appearances in the second half of their campaign, before joining Queens Park. Jack Baird spent two seasons in Ayrshire before joining The Ton this season, with fellow centre back Alan Lithgow spending the 2013/14 season plying his trade at Somerset Park. Ayr United are one of the eleven Scottish clubs that current Assistant Manager Andy Millen has represented.
Photo - GBR Photographs.
Tale of the Tape
Saturday will mark the third meeting of the sides this season. Ayr visited Cappielow on Matchday Six this season, taking all three points back down the coast with them, maintaining their unbeaten start to the league campaign in the process. It was a successful day for the visitors’ strikeforce, Dipo Akinyemi and Mark McKenzie, who delivered a goal and an assist apiece to put the Ayrshire side 2-0 up. Robbie Muirhead halved the arrears with a late header, however the visitors held on to claim all three points.
The Ton prevailed in the second meeting of the season, this time in the SPFL Trust Trophy in a match that had no shortage of talking points. Midfielder Lewis McGregor opened the scoring in the first half before Josh Mullin levelled the scoring as the match approached half time. Visiting attacker Paul Smith saw red just after the hour mark, picking up two bookings within six minutes of each other. Morton then went down to ten men after Jai Quitongo was adjudged to have struck full-back Patrick Reading with his arm. Former Ayr defender Jack Baird then saw red eight minutes from time for a lunging last-man challenge as the tie headed to spot-kicks. Familiar face Sean McGinty stepped up first for the Honest Men, with his penalty miss, underlined by an outpouring of sympathy from the home support, proving the difference as The Ton sealed their progression into the next round.
Table-topping Ayr have taken the most shots in the league, and as a result have scored the most goals in the Championship thus far. This has been in no small part thanks to striker Dipo Akinyemi, who leads the league with eleven goals in thirteen appearances to date. Lee Bullen’s side will be looking for their third win on the bounce, having beaten Partick 4-2 at Somerset and Arbroath 2-0 at Gayfield last Saturday, off the back of a 2-2 home draw with Cove Rangers and a 2-1 defeat in the hands of Dundee a fortnight ago.
I spoke to Ayr fan Marc Dunlop (@Marco_Ayr) ahead of the game, who underlined the importance of Saturday’s match for both sides – “Table toppers Ayr United, welcome 2nd placed Greenock Morton to Somerset Park this weekend. Both sides are high in confidence, setting up an extremely intriguing encounter and a potential game of the day in the Championship. The Honest Men left Angus on Saturday with a hard fought 3 points, scoring 2 late goals.
Manager Lee Bullen was delighted with the result & will be looking for his side to continue their good form. Ayr have no fresh injury worries, & it’ll be interesting to see which team start, with all substitutions having telling impacts in the last 2 games. A large crowd is expected for what could be described as game of the season, thus far! I, for one, am excited at the prospect. Three points would be a real statement going forward.”
Photo - GBR Photographs.
All match odds are provided by McBookie. Odds are correct as of 7.30am on 2nd October and are subject to change. Please only bet within your means and visit BeGambleAware if you are struggling.
The hosts head into this top-of-the-table clash as the bookmakers’ favourites, priced at 5/6 to take all three points, with the draw listed at 5/2. Dougie Imrie’s side are chalked up at 14/5 to beat Ayr inside 90 minutes for the first time this season.
If you fancy former Killie player Robbie Muirhead to continue his impressive goalscoring return this season, 11/4 is your reward if you fancy him to score his 7th league goal of the season. You can back The Ton to keep their fifth consecutive clean sheet against the league’s top scorers at 10/3.
Referee – Euan Anderson
AR1 – David Dunne
AR2 – Alastair Taylor