Raith Rovers v Morton – Match Preview
by Dean McKinnon.
The race for promotion to the Premiership takes a back seat for the weekend as Morton travel to holders Raith Rovers in Kirkcaldy in the last sixteen of the SPFL Trust Trophy.
Morton, and perhaps our victims in the last round Ayr United, are the biggest clubs who have been involved in every campaign without claiming the trophy, only ever reaching the final in 1992, where we fell 2-3 to Hamilton Accies at the old Love Street.
Whilst a promotion push will be Dougie Imrie’s priority, he’ll also want to take a step closer to righting that particular wrong.
Photo - GBR Photographs.
Imrie has already stated in the club’s in house interview that he’ll be looking to mix things up a bit and give a few of the players a breather as Morton look to extend their uneaten run in all competitions to twelve games.
Missing out will be Jai Quitongo and Jack Baird through suspension- both were ordered off against Ayr in the third round victory in September. Darragh O’Connor or Alan Lithgow will likely slot in beside Efe Ambrose in the centre of defence, whilst the likes of Darren Hynes, Alexander King, Jaze Kabia, Carlo Pignatiello and Lewis McGregor will also be hoping to get minutes in order to impress the manager as we head into the vital Christmas period, and look forward to a massive game next week as Morton host fellow highflyers Queen’s Park.
The only player on either side to have represented the other is Morton captain Grant Gillespie, who made 27 appearances for the Fifers, scoring twice in 2018-19.
Rovers’ defender Ross Millen’s dad Andy is of course Imrie’s assistant at Cappielow, and can count Raith amongst his many previous clubs in a nomadic playing career.
Photo - GBR Photographs.
Tale of the Tape
Honours this season are even, with a narrow win apiece in each club’s respective home games- Gillespie’s injury time penalty, justifiably given, but provoking an angry reaction from visitors’ boss Ian Murray proved particularly satisfying.
Since the turn of the century, the clubs have met twice in cup competitions and there would be very few complaints from this side of the room if history was to repeat itself.
In August 2000, Allan Evans’ Morton travelled to Kirkcaldy for a midweek Challenge Cup first round tie, and came away with a comfortable 4-0 victory thanks to a double from Stephen Whalen and goals from Ross Matheson and Brian Kerr in what was one of the few highlights of a dismal season which saw Morton fall into administration and subsequently into the Second Division.
We were again to travel to Stark’s Park in January 2012 for a fourth round Scottish Cup tie and Allan Moore’s side came away with a 2-1 win thanks to a fine Archie Campbell strike and a Peter MacDonald penalty to secure a trip to Fir Park which we won’t talk about.
Raith haven’t enjoyed the best of seasons thus far- I recall writing before their visit to Cappielow in October how they struggled for consistency, and since then they went on a run of three league wins and a draw in the next four games before losing three league games in a row, a run only punctured by a 3-0 Scottish Cup win over West of Scotland League minnows Auchinleck Talbot.
Whilst in an ultra-competitive Championship, they won’t be alone in going on such runs, the 2-5 home schooling from Queen’s Park will have been particularly chastening for Murray and his troops.
I spoke to Raith fan Shaughan McGuigan (@ShaughanM), who was quick to bemoan Rovers’ problems at the top end of the park, whilst taking comfort from their record in this particular tournament.
“I don’t know about you, but I am absolutely pumped for Saturday’s biggest showdown in football’s premier competition, featuring one of the most in-form and explosive forwards in world football.
That’s right, it’s the SPFL Trust Trophy last sixteen tie between Raith Rovers and Morton, and if Rovers are to retain this trinket for the second and a half time in a row, they’ll somehow have to stop Robbie “Red Hot” Muirhead, a striker who with eight goals to his name is well on the way to getting double figures for the first time in his career.
For personal, and very petty reasons, my favourite Muirhead memory was the 2018-19 campaign, where he managed a grand total of zero goals in fourteen appearances for Dunfermline Athletic, but anyway, I digress.
What Rovers would do for a forward as prolific as Muirhead at the moment. While midfielder, Aidan Connolly has stepped up with seven league goals, the entire forward roster, comprising Kyle Connell, Lewis Vaughan, Jamie Gullan and John Fredriksen have amassed just four between them.
It’s something that’ll have to change if Raith are to challenge for the top four, and if it doesn’t happen soon, fans will be desperately hoping that Arbroath and Hamilton remain stuck in a rut and don’t start to close the gap between themselves and seventh placed Rovers.
For this weekend though, the frustrations of the league can be put to one side, and with Rovers’ last defeat in the Challenge Cup coming back in September 2019, this is a tournament they always seem to do well in. Yes, that is admittedly a quirk, due to the final against Inverness not going ahead in 2020-21, and the tournament going into a hiatus the following season, but I’ll take my crumbs of comfort wherever I can, thank you very much.
While nobody really cares about this competition until the final, where it suddenly turns into the perfect excuse for a day out, both these teams will presumably have to play pretty full strength sides, with neither having huge squads to draw on which would allow them to rotate.
Raith had a reasonably full bench for the first time this season against Ayr at the weekend, not that it did them much good right enough, with the 0-2 loss arguably their worst performance of the season, so perhaps the 4-2-3-1 system, which seems to be running out of puff will be changed for this one, if not the personnel.
Admittedly they can point to a decent home record, and they came out on top at Stark’s Park the last time Morton visited back in August, but with bigger priorities for both, coming through this match with a clean bill of health feels more important than the result”
Photo - GBR Photographs.
All odds are supplied by McBookie. All odds correct as of 7am on 9th December 2022 and are subject to change. Please only bet within your means and visit BeGambleAware if you are struggling.
Once again, the bookies don’t seem to be too keen on Morton’s chances, in spite of our good run over the last couple of months.
Raith are favourites to win the match at 6/5, whilst Morton are 15/8 and the draw is 12/5.
Morton to keep their first clean sheet since the mauling of Inverness is 13/5 and the visitors to score in both halves is 10/3.
Referee- Mike Roncone
AR 1- Alastair Mather
AR 2- Gordon Crawford