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Match Preview - Morton vs Ayr (7th March)


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Morton v Ayr United – Match Preview

by Russell Gordon.

Morton wrap up the third quarter of the league campaign with the visit of Ayr United to Cappielow Park supported by Dalrada Technology for a re-arranged fixture from the 2nd of January, the result of which could go a long way to deciding where both sides’ seasons go from here.

With the two teams enjoying contrasting fortunes in recent weeks, Glen’s Vodka SPFL Manager of the Month for February, Dougie Imrie will be hoping, and expecting three points from the Honest Men for the first time this season.

DSC_7053.jpg

Photo - GBR Photographs.

Squad News

Club captain Grant Gillespie’s return from the bench against Queen’s Park on Saturday proved a more than welcome one, with his influence on the game proving vital in Morton’s second half fightback to gain a valuable point against the league leaders.

It wouldn’t be an understatement to say that Jai Quitongo was missed on Saturday, particularly in the first half, and we’ll also be hoping to see the return of Darragh O’Connor sooner rather than later.

George Oakley will be looking to continue his terrific scoring streak after netting another double at the weekend.

Current Connections 

Ayr United of course, were like ourselves inflicted with David Hopkin in their dugout in recent times, and as a result took on a number of our former players. Happily for them, Lee Bullen has since gutted out most of the dead wood, and all that remain from the Hopkin era at both clubs are now reserve goalkeeper Aidan McAdams and club captain Sean McGinty, who was far from a fans’ favourite in his time at Cappielow.

Andy Murdoch had a much more celebrated spell at Cappielow under Jim Duffy, and his departure wasn’t one that went down well with the Cowshed faithful. Perhaps the worst thing Raymond McKinnon did in his time in charge at Morton, truth be told.

For the hosts, Robbie Crawford spent seven seasons at Ayr, whilst Jack Baird had a couple of campaigns at Somerset Park between his two spells on the Tail O’ the Bank. Calvin Miller had a loan spell from Celtic in Ayrshire in the second half of the 2018-19 season, and Grant Gillespie had a very short spell there the following season, only making five appearances.

Tale of the Tape 

Ayr have the slight edge over the three fixtures so far this season, taking the spoils from the first league meeting at Cappielow in September. Mark McKenzie’s second half goal doubled Ayr’s advantage after Dipo Akinyemi had given them a first half lead, and a late Robbie Muirhead counter only proved scant consolation as they left with all three points.

Morton however, were to come out on top later that month in an SPFL Trust Trophy tie at Cappielow. Lewis McGregor’s early strike, through a ruck of bodies was to give the ‘Ton an early lead before Josh Mullin restored parity before half time. The second half saw no more goals but a glut of red cards as Ayr’s Paul Smith became the first victim of the erratic Craig Napier, before Morton’s Jai Quitongo was dismissed and Jack Baird followed him down the tunnel for an early bath later in the half.

It was very much a match ruined by poor officiating but with the game tied at 1-1 after 90 minutes, we went straight to a penalty shoot-out, with former Morton “favourite” McGinty proving the fall guy, missing the only kick of the contest to send Morton through.

It was Ayr’s turn to host Morton in November for a game that had all the ingredients to be a cracker. A Morton side that had sneaked into the promotion race on the back of an unbeaten run, thanks in no small part to a miserly defence that hadn’t conceded in four games appeared a much different proposition for an Ayr team who had easily picked their pockets a couple of months previous. But that long run without conceding came to an abrupt end after only three minutes when Alex Kirk nodded Ayr into the lead. That lead wasn’t to last long however, as a back post Jai Quitongo header from a corner levelled things up and sent the Morton fans behind the Railway End goal in to raptures.

Try as they might, neither side could find a winner and they had to settle for a share of the spoils from a game that could easily have gone either way. Whether it was a point gained or two dropped by Morton, time will tell.

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Photo - GBR Photographs.

Opposition Analysis

Ayr have suffered consecutive home defeats by Partick and Inverness in recent weeks, sandwiching a somewhat insipid 0-0 TV draw in Kirkcaldy.

With the league campaign heading into the business end now, Bullen will be hoping to arrest their recent slump at the earliest possible opportunity. With Dipo Akinyemi not hitting the net at quite the rate he was earlier in the season, the signing of Chris Maguire from Hartlepool was seen as a bit of coup, but he’s yet to see too much first team action.

On a positive note, Ayr are looking forward to a Scottish Cup Quarter Final, having disposed of Pollok, Cove Rangers, and by the skin of their teeth, Elgin City. They visit Falkirk next Monday, and everyone at the Morton Forum wishes them well for the tie.

Daire O’Connor was ordered off in the defeat to Thistle on Saturday, but Ayr have since appealed the decision, which should make him available for the Cappielow encounter.

I spoke to our regular Ayr United contributor, Marc Dunlop (@Marco_Ayr), who is a bit concerned not only about the visit to Greenock, but about Ayr’s prospects in the longer term this season.

“Saturday’s 1-2 defeat at home to Inverness saw Ayr slip out of the play-off places for the first time this season. A poor run of form, dating back to Christmas, has seen us score only one league goal in the last four matches.

Injuries to key players has been a factor, and the Honest Men have suffered more woes on this front, with key man Josh Mullin reportedly picking up a foot injury that will keep him out for an expected four to six weeks.

Daire O’Connor’s extremely harsh red card has been appealed, but Ayr go into Tuesday’s rearranged fixture with Morton desperate for a change in fortunes, as they look to get their league campaign back on track with a win. Boss Lee Bullen has urged his players to use the weekend’s defeat and poor officiating as motivation to drive the team on in the remaining fixtures.

With a very winnable Scottish Cup Quarter Final on the horizon, the Honest Men will be desperate to get back to winning ways in preparation for Monday evening. Ayr welcomed back Frankie Musonda on Saturday, and I expect him to start this one. New signing Chris Maguire has only had a couple of outings as a substitute so far, but with injuries to key attacking players, must surely come into Lee Bullen’s thinking as we go in search of our first three points since late January.”

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Photo - GBR Photographs.

Betting Guide 

All odds are supplied by McBookie. All odds correct as of 7pm on 6th March 2023 and are subject to change. Please only bet within your means and visit BeGambleAware if you are struggling. 

Morton go into the match as favourites at 13/10, with the visitors priced at 9/5 and the draw at 9/4.

George Oakley to continue his great scoring form with a double is 11/1 and Morton to win and both teams to score is 7/2.

Match Officials 

Referee- Peter Stuart

AR 1-  Daniel McFarlane

AR 2- Brian Christie

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